Really good stuff leaders can learn from a tree called the Long Leaf Pine:
1. The LLP develops a deep and robust root system before it is ever more than a foot off the ground. Because it survives and thrives within a fire-dependent ecosystem (read “constant change”) it has to develop a nutrient rich underground source of strength and sustainability to ready itself for rapid growth. This process can take up to 12 years.
Leaders, what this means for you is that you better know the ground you stand on – who you are (values, strengths, limitations), why you are (your life and leadership purpose), and where you’re going (aspirations and the pursuit of meaning) – if you want others to follow you with their hearts through the realities of constant change.
2. The LLP grows in a low-density ecosystem. Because of that impressive root system, the trees have the capacity to stand apart from one another across the landscape while still being connected to a common cause; creating a forest. If they grew too close together frequent fires would destroy rather than replenish the system. Being separate but connected means each one must be both prepared to stand alone while being dependent on the others.
Leaders, what this means for you is that your people need you to become an expert at BOTH standing out and fitting in. Leaders who stand out well define a vision (the parameters of performance), supply the resources and knock down barriers. Leaders who fit in well make space for others to do what they do best. They support autonomy, ownership and connection. They say things like: “You decide” and “I don’t know, what do you think?”
3. The LLP grows fast and tall, up to 80, even 100 feet. It relies on full sun, full exposure, and can live for 300 years. It’s a beautiful specimen, truly impressive. It is also home to over 30 endangered and threatened animal species. It uses it’s strength to sustain others.
Yes, leaders, a lot of leadership is about being fast and about standing proudly in the full exposure of opportunity and accomplishment. The only time that kind of leadership is meaningful, however, is when it’s practiced for the benefit, the protection, the advancement and the development of others and a cause worth fighting for.