Most of us have learned the density of liquids through scientific experiments in primary schools.
The physical property of density helps scientists separate liquids. When two liquids are placed in a container, the denser liquid will fall to the bottom. The less dense liquid will rise to the top. (PowerKnowledge – Physical Sciences)
We apply this lesson when we take the vial of dressing or do it from scratch. Oil and vinegar do not mix. Let stand, liquids separate; the oil will rise and the vinegar will flow. Our liquid density / salad dressing analogy can also be applied to leadership.
What happens when you put a diverse group of people who don't know each other in a room without any education? Like the separation that occurs in our salad dressing, people will form groups – oils and vinegars (and maybe a few pieces of garlic and pepper hanging in the middle).
A salad dressing or a team needs an emulsifier to mix things up and link these together to something new. In the case of a vinaigrette, an emulsifier may be an egg or milk; while a leader is an emulsifier of people. Unfortunately, not all emulsifiers are created equal. (Watch the video of the water-oil emulsion.) Some are less stable than others.
Forest Fire Leadership Challenge – Dig a little deeper
- Evaluate your team. Have groups formed within the team, forming an "us" versus "them" environment?
- Evaluate your leadership. Are you a stable or unstable leader?
- Consider team building activities that promote cohesion.
- Lead by example. Do what you say and say what you want to say. Inconsistency does not mix!
Pam McDonald is a writer and editor for BLM Wildland Fire Training and Workforce Development and a member of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee. The expressions are those of the author.