There’s an old sports term that I like to reference, called the “coaching tree”. The phrase is often used in baseball, football, even basketball to describe the specific influences – people, places and events – that contribute to a unique coaching style. Our professional lives are also shaped by “trees,” built from those we have learned from, worked with, and admired over the years. While each tree is unique and can include everyone from children to employees and folks we mentor, every life is shaped by the many specific influences that we encounter. As leaders, we have the responsibility to help others by contributing a positive influence in a meaningful way.
Years of Influence Build Leadership Integrity, Strength and Purpose
Leaders and more broadly, humans, need integrity, strength and purpose. These are endearing qualities for sure, but critical for passing on something bigger and better for the future. “Realness” is a value that is often difficult to emulate, yet a key part of effective leadership that makes it easy to be decisive and principled. Doing the right thing and doing it well comes from years of positive influences working together to build character. Values are shaped throughout life from childhood but can be reinforced by people we know and even some that we don’t, such as leaders from history, coaches that we admired, and others of influence that we’ve learned about through our readings.
My tree for example, has been shaped by a collection of coaches, co-workers, friends and partners who individually and collectively taught me the value of treating employees and customers with respect, the lessons of hard work and discipline, and the value of teamwork and reward coupled with focusing on goals. Not a day passes where I don’t find myself influenced by someone who leaves me with a positive impression.
Leadership is Anchored by Strong Beliefs, Values and Convictions
Organizational success depends on leaders who continue to learn, improve and grow. Like a tree, leadership growth is a continual process defined by resilience. Through vision, focus and direction, effective leaders can reveal the path to success. Much like the strength of the oak tree or the adaptability of the willow, great leaders are the product of a vibrant, healthy and strong root system – a foundation of beliefs, values and convictions. Remember, leadership is not about popularity or pleasing everyone, it is about making tough choices based on deep-seated principles for the long-term greater good.
As leaders who are part of someone else’s tree, we can strive to contribute our influence based on treating everyone with respect, being a solid role model, and leaving things better than we found them. Making a positive difference in someone else’s life is a deed that is never lost.