LEADER’S FIELD GUIDE
My sister and I get together once a month– hopefully for a hike, but when temperatures are way below normal, we choose an indoor activity. This time…painting pottery. Upon arriving, we saw shelves of delicate pottery ranging from frog-shaped toothbrush holders to fine serving dishes. Each piece was bright white and extremely fragile; each a blank slate ready for a bit of creativity and lots of color. As we finished, our projects held a lot of promise, but were subdued and unimpressive as they awaited for their firing in the kiln.
Clay is formed from hydrous aluminum silicate (or wet volcanic ash) into shiny, rock-hard ceramic. It is moldable in its plastic stage and dries to leather hard. It must become bone dry before its first firing. After this bisque firing, pottery is bright white, a blank “canvas” for color and texture. Once painted and glazed, the pottery is fired a second time. This slow glaze firing vitrifies the clay (or fuses particles together) and burns away any remaining impurities, transforming fragile pieces into brilliant, waterproof, and stone-like art!
How does firing clay relate to the quickening of a leader?
- Underfired: Pottery that is underfired sounds hollow or brittle. The surface becomes blistered or discolored. The untested employee often gives up, recovers slowly, or performs poorly under pressure.
- Overfired: According to ceramic manufacture Mayco, “All clays have a maturing point; once the temperature exceeds this point, the clay actually starts to soften or become liquid-like.” Too much pressure, on even on a on a seasoned leader, can melt away resilience and productivity.
- Dependent: If a piece is placed too close to another in the kiln, the two pieces can become permanently fused together. A weakened employee is too reliant on another for support or claims the work of another as his/her own.
- Rushed: A piece that is not dry enough for the 2000°F kiln can explode as remaining moisture turns to steam. Firing in the kiln is a slow process and can take up to twenty hours. We can’t rush development through stages of increased responsibility and proficiency.
My sister and I had so much fun painting our own pottery, we insisted our mom try it with us during a visit to Arizona (where temperatures were still below normal, booooo!). We waited impatiently to see our matte-finished projects coated with subdued paint colors transform into shiny, colorful porcelain. Leaders, like clay, can be molded and quickened into strong, brilliant models of guidance and direction.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Sugerman (PMP, PCC) is a speaker, author, and leadership coach with Leading Synergies. She founded Synergy Groups, virtual masterminds connecting Christians in leadership around the globe for the purpose of Community, Accountability, and Transformation. She also partners with high-performers and heirs-apparent especially in the STEM industries. Michelle’s formal background in technology, franchise, and project management gives her an edge on implementing best practices and scaling towards sustainable success. Michelle lives in Colorado where she hikes fourteeners and enjoys gourmet meals with her loving husband of 22 years.
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