Finding the Leader Within

On family vacation recently in Wilmington, NC, I got to enjoy happy hour with the men from F3’s Cape Fear region. Among the things we toasted was the leadership of my F3 brother Keith, who recently passed the regional leadership torch to a successor after two-plus years in charge.

In most F3 regions, ultimate leadership tends to coalesce around a single man (who in F3 lingo is called “the Nantan”). It is rarely conferred through a formal process and it tends to be transferred when the time feels right, rather than on any set schedule. This is part of the “starfish” organizational style that we believe to be at the heart of why F3 is so uniquely effective in turning men into leaders.

Keith came into leadership in Wilmington in a time of crisis. His predecessor -- the founding leader of that region -- ran into some personal difficulties that required that he step down abruptly and with some bad feelings. At the time Keith took over, he was very much a steadying influence, with a head of exactly the kind of grey hair one tends to look for in a time of trial.

Keith doesn’t have a classic “big” personality -- his F3 nickname is “Little Engine That Could,” which tells you more about his demeanor than any description I could offer. In that first year of his leadership in Wilmington, we talked frequently on the phone to check in on how things were going. It seemed like the conversation always ended up with him telling me that he was an Accidental Nantan and that we really needed to find a better guy to lead the group. I would tell him, “Sure, we’ll find another guy. I just need you to hold the fort until that guy shows up.”

And then I would hang up the phone and think to myself: “Man, that guy is exactly what they need in Wilmington right now.”

This has been a recurring theme across regions and time periods in F3, and at The Iron Project, we believe it to be the case in life as well: Leaders do not come from a Leader Factory, all struck from the same Leader Mold. And nor is a certain style of leader effective in all situations.

The key is to be the right leader at the right time. Keith was what I have come to think of as “That Someone” for F3 in Wilmington in 2015 (and in 2016 and 2017 too, as it turned out).

The Iron Project’s goal is not to build a Leadership Assembly Line that magically produces ready-made leaders from some sort of trademarked Leader Mold. We work with organizations that want to look at their people and see the Leaders Within -- organizations that want “their someones” to be “That Someone.” Contact us to begin a conversation about how to make that happen for your organization.

Tim Whitmire