Leaners, Leaders and Suckers

Leaners.  Leaders.  Suckers.  In the summers that I worked on a tree farm those were the three things we looked for as we walked up and down the rows of young trees.

If a tree was leaning it needed to be straightened so that the trunk would grow straight.  This was done by strategic tugging and stomping the dirt around the tree.

A leader in tree terms is at the very top.  There needs to be one strong point growing upward.  If there are two branches at the top it creates a fork which weakens and shortens the tree.  One branch has to be clipped back and the other tied over to direct it upwards.

And we would rub our hands up and down the trunk to remove the suckers, the little lower branches that only take nourishment away from the important upper branches.

For leaders, in people terms, there are lessons in the trees.

Straighten the leaners: If the team or individual is leaning off course, the leader needs to use some strategic tugging to get everyone back on track.  Readjust the foundation to keep everything headed in the right direction.

Set the leaders (trees): The leader (people) needs to make sure the team has at some point a singular focus.  If there is a divided sense of purpose one needs to be pruned back and the other strengthened.

Remove the suckers: All those little tasks that keep us busy and take time away from us and the team need to be brought to attention and kept in check.


“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
Abraham Lincoln

Image via nvtrees.com

Bonus quotation:

“As the poet said, “Only God can make a tree” – probably because it’s so hard to figure out how to get the bark on”
Woody Allen

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