Leadership Lessons From a Pot Plant

Tags: Madagascar Palm, Personal Leadership

I never expected to learn a valuable Personal Leadership lesson from a pot plant.  However, thanks to a remarkable recovery from the plant and some inspired insight from my wife, a lesson was learnt.

My wife received a Pacypodium Lamerei, also known as the Madagascar Palm, a couple of years ago as a gift.  Since then the plant became a part of the household and grew nicely until about two years ago, when we moved to another house and subsequently the Madagascar Palm got a new spot in our new living room.

Then the trouble began.  It seemed as if the plant’s growth became stunted and it started to lose its leaves one by one.  This continued until it had only one leave left.  New leaves appeared every now and then, but they soon turned black, shriveled and fell off.  We tried everything we could think off.  We gave it more water.  Then we gave it less water. We made sure the soil was right and we gave it fertilizer, moved it around the room, but nothing seemed to work.  It seemed like the plant was hanging on to life by a thread.

Finally, part out of desperation and part because we made peace that the plant is at the end of its life, we moved it out to the porch.

Then something almost magical happened.  Within a week of living on the porch, new leaves began to appear!  Within a month, it had a healthy crown of lively green leaves.  Now it is thriving, as is evident from the picture below.

Leadership Wisdom From a Pot Plant

One day while admiring the plant’s vibrant growth, my wife remarked;

“People are exactly the same as this plant.  We changed its environment and suddenly it got its life back again.  If people are not in the right environment, they will also die a slow emotional death.”

Her remark really made me  think about people and leadership and I learnt the following  from our Madagascar Palm and my wife’s insight.

Personal Leadership Focus on the Basics

A plant need certain basic resources to grow, like soil and water.  We made sure the plant had everything it needed to grow.  In the same way, to practice effective personal leadership, you have to make sure that you have everything you need to lead to the best of your ability.  As a person and as a leader you need certain basic elements to ensure your personal and leadership growth.  These elements include staying teachable, acting with integrity and focusing on adding value to people’s lives.  This means that you have to look after your personal development as a leader.  You have to make sure that you are in “fertile soil” where you can grow and develop as a person as well as a leader.

Making Sure You are in the Right Place is Critical

The second element necessary for the plant to grow was the right environment.  You have to make sure you are in the right place or role or environment for your leadership to thrive.  This is not only important for your leadership, but for you as a person as well.  Make sure you are happy where you are and that your gifts and leadership skills are optimally used.  A place where you are happy will fuel your passion.  It will make you thrive.  It will energize you and there is space to grow.  Making sure you are in the right place is a critical element is your leadership development.  You can have the best resources and development tools available to you, but if you are not functioning in the right environment, playing to your strengths, you will stagnate and just like the Madagascar Palm in my story, hold on to life by a thread.

Every time I now look at our Madagascar Palm it reminds me to keep my focus on the basics and also on functioning in the right environment.  I am also reminded that the wrong environment will kill my passion, steal drive and hamper my effectiveness, making it fall away one by one like the leaves of the sick Madagascar Palm.