Commentary

November 15, 2013

The leader’s greatest harvest

Lt. Col. Matthew T. Fritz
412th Operations Group (Currently deployed to Southwest Asia)

“Everything that exists is in a manner the seed of that which will be.” – Marcus Aurelius

Seeds are curious things – small, innocuous . . . overlooked. Incredibly, they are filled with an amazing power for growth. A growth for greatness. So, too, is your capability for seeding leadership potential!

I learned from a close-friend that a single shaft of wheat, left undamaged and allowed to grow unchecked, could spontaneously multiply into a crop large enough to feed the entire world population for an entire year – within only eight years. Likewise, with only a single apple seed, you could grow a tree and a single apple tree produces enough seed to plant an entire orchard.

True leadership, the type that succeeds in continually pushing the bounds of individual and organizational potential, is about promoting an environment where individual teammates are encouraged and empowered to grow for the good of the team and the mission. When we make it a priority to plant the seeds for collective success, we create conditions for those around us to flourish and thrive – both personally and professionally.

I recommend the following three keys to success at seeding leadership potential:

Meet me halfway: The most successful leaders learned long ago that real success is achieved through working with people, rather than against them. Seek out opportunities to cut-the-distance between you and your teammates by including them in decision-making processes. Through the inclusion of their voice, you show them that their ideas and inputs actually matter. Seek to plant the seeds of inclusion and your teammates will help cultivate long lasting relationships.

Do more, speak less: When you were growing up, you learned more from paying attention to your surroundings, and how people acted, than from what you were told. Example breeds repetition. Rather than simply talking with your teammates about their potential, take an active role in helping them to realize their potential. Dig deep in your team’s time and resources to encourage nurturing and growth – sponsor their attendance at a professional development event. Encourage teammates to expand their horizons and take a class or join a club you recommend which feed into their strength and help them develop their potential. What is your favorite leadership book? Do you think a certain teammate would benefit from reading that particular title? My point is that your demonstrated willingness to invest in their growth is what makes the difference – more than the specific action. Plant the seeds of commitment that will contribute to communicating that you truly care about nurturing their growth.

Give with no strings attached: Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsyvania, wrote in his book, “Give or Take,” that conventional wisdom portrays highly successful people as those who possess a combination of hard work, talent, and luck. He goes on to share the latest research reveals true success stems from being more interested in giving than receiving. Specifically, his research confirms leaders who consistently give more than they take, are ultimately the leaders who most frequently elevate performance, increase satisfaction and enhance engagement. Sow the seeds of selflessness that encourage your teammates to cultivate the same in others around them – like wheat in the field or apples in the orchard.

Nurture your fields of inclusion, commitment and selflessness and towards stronger mission accomplishment anchored with deep-roots of team potential. With simple actions, you can share self-multiplying power within your team. A single thought (acted upon), a single word (spoken), a selfless deed (done). Each of these actions are seeds with the potential to motivate those around you to stretch farther, reach higher, and grow stronger than they previously thought possible. Seeding leadership potential within your team reaps a bountiful harvest of returns that lasts beyond a single season.

In 1977, Frank Outlaw, the President of Bi-Lo Stores, shared his thoughts on this topic in a Texas newspaper feature entitled “What They’re Saying:”

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

With this in mind, I challenge you to ask yourself the following questions about your leadership: “What type of seeds am I planting as a leader?”
I am very interested in hearing how you are seeding leadership potential within your Team, your family and your community. Are you happy with your harvest, or are you facing a famine?

About the Author: Lt. Col. Matthew T. Fritz, 412th Operations Group, is currently deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan, where he is serving as the director of the Commander’s Action Group for NATO Air Training Command – Afghanistan. He is a leader and mentor in the field of complex organizational change, emotional intelligence, and organization strategy.




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