Behind the ‘Seens’ (Where Leadership is Made)

Don’t mistake that which is unseen for that which is unimportant. 

This week I boarded a plane to Sydney on my way to work with a great group of leaders from one of Australia’s leading charities. 

As I sat waiting for the plane to push back I began to think about all that was taking place behind the ‘seens’ to get me off the ground. Baggage handling, pre flight briefings, cabin checks, safety checklists, catering and cleaning to name a few.

Come to think of it, from where I was seated I couldn’t even see the pilots. I’m pretty sure that they were in there or I have no idea how I got to Sydney. 

It’s clear that just because something is unseen that doesn’t mean that it is unimportant.

I’m reminded of a mango tree we had not far from our house where I grew up in QLD. For years that tree was hidden beneath the soil. It looked like nothing was happening. But it was working away in anonymity sending roots deep throughout the soil preparing for everything it had ahead of it. 

As it finally broke through the ground and people saw something visible for the first time I can imagine the disappointment when they realised there were no mangoes. There was a lot of growth and change and activity but no fruit.

But should you really expect fruit from branches that haven’t developed or grown strong enough to carry and sustain it? 

I think about the day we eventually came across this tree and saw mangoes ripe and ready to pick all over it. Finally the tree was useful and produced the outcomes it was planted for. I was finally able to see the results of a process that was in most part unseen.

Leadership, much like my simple mango tree, is a ground up process.

It’s a process from:

  • ROOTS to BRANCHES to FRUIT
  • HIDDEN to VISIBLE to HELPFUL
  • HEALTH to GROWTH to RESULTS

When we try and force it top down:

  • We focus on driving outcomes and achieving RESULTS. So we become demanding of team GROWTH and activity. We eventually end up having to deal with an environment and culture that lacks team HEALTH.
  • We focus on the FRUIT so we become demanding of the BRANCHES and we end up neglecting the ROOTS.

But when we build from the ground up

  • We start by creating nurturing environments and cultures where team HEALTH is valued. We cultivate GROWTH and development in our team that enlarges capacity and increases activity. In return our teams achieve outcomes and deliver RESULTS
  • We nurture the ROOTS and GROW the branches and then we enjoy the FRUIT 

Leadership is built from the ground up. Don’t mistake that which is unseen for that which is unimportant. 

Something to think about 

  • If you have to speak, don’t get frustrated with preparation, it’s getting the roots strong.
  • If you’re waiting on a leadership opportunity, don’t be impatient, put yourself in great soil and build your foundations to sustain your journey ahead.
  • If you lead a team, make health a priority. Build cultures by design that are fun, thriving, energised, supportive and nurturing. If you focus on building an environment that is healthy and where people want to show up, the growth and results will follow.

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