The moment I saw it, this tree intrigued me. I was taking part in my normal ritual while my family was on vacation in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos not long ago. I love to take pictures of flowers, trees, and other aspects of nature whenever we travel. My husband thinks it’s silly, especially when I get distracted by yet another yellow flower, but I love finding new perspectives in nature and celebrating the beauty I see.
I had seen mangrove trees before – the kind whose roots spread out above the ground and give the impression that the tree has simply lifted itself up and walked around. Those are normally right at the water’s edge. But this tree was inland several hundred yards, and didn’t have the typical root system. A little research revealed that this tree is a white mangrove, a slightly rarer sister to the common black mangrove and red mangrove.
What caught my eye was the lack of a dominant trunk for this tree. Instead of one large, strong column reaching skyward with expanding branches, this tree seemed to be a collection of random stalks that had found their way to each other, intertwining as they grew. Not only did the tree lack a central trunk, but as the pieces twisted and supported one another, they actually ended up fusing into the tree’s main branches. It’s almost as if they realized that staying alone could only reap limited benefits, but unifying allowed them to thrive.
That’s true for us as people, too. When a person stands alone, she has a limited circle of influence and a limited impact. When a team stands alone, they may have a great product or service, but it could be so much more if the team was unified with the other teams in the organization. When a leader stands alone, they may lead well for a season, but eventually the lack of support and connection to other leaders will cause the leader to wither.
Looking at the tree again, I see that the pieces don’t slide skyward parallel to each other, simply working next to each other to create a trunk. Instead, they weave in and out of each other and eventually merge into one branch where you can no longer see the individual stalks. Some may have started in one direction, but grew instead into a different direction in order to benefit the whole organism. At the base, some stalks support other stalks, offering strength when a strand is too weak to thrive on its own.
Leadership isn’t about elevating yourself to greater heights and greater positions in order to get all the glory. Instead, it is about weaving your wisdom and influence and passion into each person on your team so that together the team is seen as a single, beautiful unit. Leadership is helping people who are headed in one direction see the benefit of changing directions in order to make the team stronger. It is teaching people how to support each other’s weaknesses by offering our individual strengths.
Every piece of this tree is important. Every member of your team is important.
Every piece brings a unique strength and perspective.
Together, the result is so much stronger and more beautiful than the individual parts.