Trees, Leaders, and Storms

Playground treeI took this photo in June at Southview.  We had a tree over near the playground that was not doing well, and after several expert opinions and several quotes, we made the decision to cut it down.  There was no immediate danger from it – yet. But because it wasn’t healthy, if the conditions were right, with the right storm, it was likely to fall, either on the playground or on the building and caused significant damage.  It wasn’t going to resolve itself, and it wasn’t going to go away.

As I was looking through some photos, I saw this one and thought about leadership.

So often, leaders are tasked with defining reality.  Not as we wish it were, not as it used to be, but as it is.  And leaders have to think forward, looking ahead of where the team or organization currently is so that problems, issues, or concerns can be identified well in advance and be dealt with before significant damage occurs.

I wonder how often we think of leadership that way.  I wonder how often we see leaders as reactive, not proactive.  I believe great leaders think forward, examining possible outcomes and determining the best course of action after diligent consideration.  Sometimes that’s even intuitive; I can’t tell you why I see a problem, but I see one down the road.

Here’s what I know after nearly two decades of leading and studying leaders: storms WILL come.  It is guaranteed.  Our job as leaders is to, as best we can, anticipate what’s ahead and plan diligently.  That requires trust on the parts of those we lead; they might not see what we see!  But over time, trust is earned and grows, and when exercised well, earns more.

On this Friday, take a few minutes and think about the team or organization you lead.  Can you identify the “unhealthy tree” issues or situations that threaten damage to the team or organization?  What are you doing to lead with regard to them?