What a Madagascar Palm Can Teach You About Personal Leadership

June 12, 2019

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 shoots appeared but after a short while 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 with the fact that the plant is at the end of its life, we moved it 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.

Personal Leadership Wisdom From a Pot Plant

One day we where admiring the vibrance with which the plant now

grows, 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 provided the plant with this basic necessities for it to grow.

In the same way, to practice effective personal leadership, you have to make sure 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 you have to look after your personal development as a leader.  You have to ensure you are in “fertile soil” where you have the ability to grow and develop as a person as well as a leader.

If people are not in the right environment, they will die a slow emotional death.

Making Sure You are in the Right Place is Critical

The second factor necessary for the plant to grow was the right environment.

You have to make sure you are in the right 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 your gifts and leadership skills are optimally utilized.  A place where you are happy will fuel your passion.  It will make you thrive.  You will be energized 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 I am reminded of the importance of focusing on the basics, but also on the importance of the right environment.  I am  also reminded of how important it is to actively make sure that I constantly function in the right environment, because in the wrong environment passion, drive and effectiveness falls away one by one like the leaves of the sick Madagascar Palm.

About the author

Joseph Hawking has a passion for people & leadership development and since he discovered his mom’s old typewriter as a boy, have been writing in some form or another. He is part of the Leadership for The International Mentoring Network, where he is a regular Idea Studio Facilitator and Annual IMN Conference Speaker. He believes that the highest form of living is using what you have been blessed with, to add value to other people’s lives. He has been publishing The Leadership Connexion blog since August 2018.