Plant and Nurture Leaders

| July 31, 2013 | 0 Comments

by Phil Lee

The Chinese Proverb, “If your vision is for a year, plant wheat. If your vision is for 10 years, plant trees. If your vision is for a lifetime, plant people,” gives reason to leadership development. Do better by planting leaders.

Planting and developing leaders takes more effort and resources than most owners, executives, and/or managers care to invest. Foolish conclusion! Junk in – junk out . . . quality in – quality out applies to planting wheat, trees and people.

If any lesson comes from terrorist cells, Delta Teams, Special Forces it is that highly committed, focused and trained individuals with like minds can be organized into small groups to accomplish lofty missions and achieve tough objectives (for evil or good). The models and processes for these “leadership team development” phenomena can be applied to business and non- profit institutions.

In today’s business environment its “mind share” not “market share” that determines competitive advantage. When top talent physically or mentally disengages – business goes too. In many cases around the world people are literally dying to be led by someone who can engage them in a worthwhile cause and/or mission. The same mindset is effective in a local business from sole proprietor to almost public held corporation.

It seems that most organizations within the U.S. have dropped performance expectations and standards settling for mediocre attitudes, behaviors, and business practices. This reality can be experienced through being a customer or alliance of these very ineffective institutions and indifferent personnel.

For the past 15 years I was getting use to the dumbing down within businesses and agencies that espoused the excuse “we can’t find good help like we use to.” Duh … I don’t think so! Good help was never hanging like ripe fruit in utopia. It has always been the responsibility of leadership to wisely select receptive candidates and develop them into excellence. Like planting wheat, more so for trees, and 100 fold for people it takes cultivation. And cultivation requires care and commitment from the cultivator. In here lies the rub. Serving others starts at or near the top and spreads through the organization.

I was once told by a young Singaporean billionaire that he hesitated to develop leaders at his four star hotel and other businesses because they would eventually leave. I agreed it would be unfortunate – but worse if they were not developed and stayed. This subtle reality has become a blind spot for the heads of organizations that think only of short-term profits and/or technology advancements while leaving the planting of people and developing of leaders up to chance. Terrorism cells, Delta teams, or Special Forces do not leave much up to chance. Weeding is done on a regular basis in the most ideal gardens.

This post 9/11 atmosphere of patriotisms and threats of further terrorism provided cover for heads of organizations to raise the criteria for bringing new people on, revitalizing standards for promotion, improving talent development processes that continuously uplifts morale, stimulates teamwork, increases productivity, upgrades quality standards, serves customers, sharpens competitiveness, and boost profits. There has not been a more ideal time since the onset of the now extended economic stagnation to get back and/or move forward to discerning and developing talent, eliminating waste and takers, and expecting greater results from fewer human resources. I recommend paying more for fewer and better leaders because it saves money and causes successes more often. Lead more – manage less!

Is it time to gather your associates for a re-envisioning and reactivating the strategic thinking process? Does your organization’s mission, values statement, organizational excellence aspirations and strategic objectives need to be revised and recommitted to? Change the vision and results will change. Plant and cultivate leaders to actualize ideals!

Philip C. Lee of Lead Together advises heads of large organizations worldwide and consults local business owners on why and how to effectively Lead Leaders and advises managers to “Lead Excellence 24/7.” Lee is the originator of the Organization Leadership Appraisal & Giving Attention Potential Scale, Envisioning to Result Gains model, and Achievements, Goals and Challenges (AGC™) processes. He can be reached through LinkedIn or at

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