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The Leadership Tree

slice-of-life_classroom-image-blackThis is my 6th post in the Slice of Life Story Challenge develop by Two Writing Teachers. I have committed to blogging everyday in the month of March (2014). 25 posts to go. No, I’m not really counting – just wondering about future topics. Bear with me as I take this journey. Some days/posts are easier than others.

Books fill my home, my Kindle, my life. Leadership, instructional coaching, literacy, effective instructional practices and technology integration are among my favorite topics. Twitter has provided me the opportunity to personally connect with so many of my favorite authors. Todd Whitaker, Jim Knight, Angela Maiers, Amy SandvoldSteve Barkley, Dave Burgess, Christopher Lehman, Kate RobertsDiane Sweeney and Eric Sheninger just to name a few!  (The fear I have in making a list is that I will leave someone out. Even as I revise this post, I continue to add names. It isn’t meant to be an all-inclusive list.) 

I enjoy learning from authors  live or via some for of technology. A few years ago I had an opportunity to attend one of Todd Whitaker’s sessions based on his book What Great Principals Do Differently which brings me to the topic of leadership and trees.

He started the session (if I recall correctly) by having us look at this picture (found on his website) of children climbing a tree and asked us to identify which child represented our leadership style.

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 8.17.39 PMEach person had a unique take on the task and supported their thoughts with evidence from the picture. (A mini Close Reading before close reading was the buzz.) I chose the little boy toward the middle of the page, half way up the tree, and at the moment helping others. I felt he represented my vision of empowering and inspiring others. He modeled the way to reach that limb and is now helping others get there. He isn’t at “the top” of the tree. He still has a lot of climbing (learning) to do himself. He most likely will need to seek assistance and learn from others to get to the next limb on the tree. He will continue to guide others along the way.

I have used this same image in workshops I have facilitated on leadership. I have coupled it with the following video.

Here we have a leader – a surprising leader. A leader that perhaps wasn’t taken seriously at the start. How could one small boy make a difference – especially with a giant tree? He had little or no experience with the task at hand. Did he actually believe he could move the large tree blocking traffic, in the pouring rain nonetheless, by himself? Or did he already know he needed the help of others? I believe the latter.  His first followers were children, like himself. They believed in his vision. They approached the task as fun. It took awhile, but the grown ups (or reluctant followers) soon joined in the cause. Was it easy? No. Did they have slip ups?  Yes. But together they moved the tree. They reopened the road. This allowed their city to thrive once again. The young leader was proud, but so were all the followers. They celebrated their accomplishments together. No one was taking the credit. It was a group effort.

He (the young leader) didn’t move the tree alone – he just had the vision. The vision that anything is possible. The vision that if he modeled the way and inspired others, together they could make a difference.

Sound familiar?

Margaret Mead has been quoted to say, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” I have had the honor to witness  many small groups of committed citizens wanting to change the world. They inspire me daily! They are leaders!

So what do trees have to do with leadership? I am going to “go out on a limb” and say there are several similarities. Healthy trees have several attributes. Healthy organizations need to have the same. The roots of a tree signify a organizations values, core beliefs and passions.  These roots provide the stability to the whole organization. They are grounded by the leaders values and core beliefs. The trunk of the tree represents the organization’s purpose. The leader guides the organization to stay true to the purpose and supports others as they grow together. The branches represent the people of the organization. The leader strives to build strong, trusting relationships with the people of the organization while building upon their strengths. And finally the leaves and the fruit of the tree represent the organizations results. These results are the outcomes of an organization working collectively toward the same results. The leader must have perseverance to keep the organization to stay focused on what’s best for all involved.

Look around you. Watch the trees. How do you think they signify leadership? I’d love to hear your thoughts!  

Books from some authors I consider friends that may be of interest:

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