For this blog, I seek to point out a key vision of one aspect of leadership that was pointed out by Michael Todd when he was the speaker at an XO Conference. He brought it out in a Faith Based context but it is critical for leadership in any area at all. However, it is also aligned with my Organizational Maneuverability concept or leading in a rapidly changing environment. As I present it, I will highlight the simple point but I will then present a situation where I did this about 38 years ago without fully realizing what I was doing. Let me begin with the basic concept.
Michael Todd pointed out that there is a key difference between something being “Buried” and something being “Planted”. He pointed out that in a changing unstable environment, people feel pressed “Under”. Let me offer two aspects that in either case, whether buried or Planted, you are placed under the surface of the soil:
When something is Buried, it is placed under ground and covered over with soil and death and disintegrating is present. It is over.
When something is Planted (as an example a Seed), it is placed under ground and covered over with soil but in this case, Life is present and like a seed, as water presents, the seed begins to grow and it grows roots and then breaks the surface of the soil and becomes the great tree perhaps that provides shade for others or food for others.
An Illustration & Example from my Past
This true situation is about the leadership aspect. About 38 years ago when I was a USAF Captain in a Fighter Squadron in the US Air Force 4th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW), my Girlfriend at the time was finishing her post graduate work at NC State University. This one Friday because of our flight schedule, she was going to drive down to my apartment close to the 4th TFW, and I would take us out to dinner and we could spend some time.
Some people may read this from a political mind and some would agree with me and some would not but that is ok because that is not why I present this. I present this from a purely Leadership interest in light of the context.
When my girlfriend got to my apartment door and I opened it, I could immediately see in her eyes and body language that something really had her frightened and she said, “can we talk”.
I said “Absolutely” but I did not press her. I sat down on a dining room chair and thought she would go to the other chair and her nervousness and fear was obvious. She came over and sat down sidewise on my lap and when I looked at her, with a shaking voice she said “Please don’t look at me”.
She broke into tears as she told me what she needed to. Her story was that over 7 years prior, well before we even met, she had an abortion and she could barely catch her breath as she told me. She said it as she cried on my shoulder. She had been to 7 years of Counselling as a result of it. And as she cried, she said “My counselor said I needed to tell you” and she kept crying.
After about 15 seconds or so in the midst of her tears she said “So you can kick me out now”. It took me about 10 seconds to make sure my arms were around her and I only said “Lady, you don’t see me moving for the door do you?” When I said that, she exploded into tears and her arms slung around my neck. I held her close and when everything calmed down, we went to dinner.
She was hired by Johnson & Johnson as a Research Chemist and about 3 years later we were on the phone catching up and we both said “Why didn’t we get married” and we both came to the conclusion that it was because at the point in time we both were focused on our careers. Our 3 years of dating was probably the most compatible relationship I have ever experienced. On the phone she told me that moment in my dining room was a Defining Moment for her and she would never forget it.
At the time, I knew that was the right answer but I had no idea of the depth of Leadership being employed. It was just natural to me. Had I pointed a finger at her or just “told her what to do”, I would have narcissistically ‘Buried Her”. At that moment, I was PLANTED for a real defining moment in time.
To bring out the radical results in your team in a challenging environment,
Do not Bury them……but PLANT THEM & PLANT YOURSELF as well.
– Randy Swaim, Coaching for Relevance, LLC