maintaining leadership

Everybody has their favorite time of the year. For me, I like the autumn. Autumn for me is wonderful because of the color changes, the temperature changes — bright, beautiful, clear days, no humidity. And for most of my life, I have looked forward to fall coming — until about 17 years ago. Seventeen years ago, we bought a house that we loved, but most especially we bought the property on which it sat — four acres filled with over one hundred mature trees. Oak, Hickory, Maple, Beech — all of them, big and beautiful –many of them 75 to 100 years old.

When we bought it, we saw the beauty. But we immediately started hearing people say, “You bought that property? Oh, my gosh, that yard, that property is going to be a bear to manage.” We even had people say, “All those trees, I tell you what I’d do, I’d take a chainsaw and cut those trees down.” The trees were the very things that we came to enjoy, and they’re suggesting we cut down the thing that brings the joy? That didn’t make sense to me.

Now, I will admit that first year or two when the leaves started falling in mass — that was a little overwhelming. How are we going to stay on top of it? The entire family jumped in. We attacked it as a team, and we got through that first year and we learned that there was some things we could do better the next year. We could be better prepared. So when year two came, it didn’t take quite as much time. We learned with each successive year to the point that it now takes only one person to do this entire job — about four or five weeks of maintenance total.

“I can do this job even if it’s difficult.”

Leadership Maintenance: Not Fun, But Necessary

Now, why do I bring this up? Remember what I said earlier. We had people tell us, “I wouldn’t have that property. I don’t want the headaches. I’d cut those trees down and be done with it.” From a leadership perspective, that’s very similar to when people say, “I wouldn’t have that job. Don’t ask me. Regardless of the fact that I have the talents, the experience, the know-how, I would not be a leader because I don’t want the headaches that go with it.” Or, “I’ll tell you what I’d do — I’d fire him. I wouldn’t take one more minute with that person,” when in fact that person may be your top performer and just needs a little bit of “maintenance,” if you will.

Here’s what I’ve learned from doing these leaves. Is it my favorite part of owning this property? Absolutely not. However, I will tell you that the time I’m able to enjoy this property when I’m not doing leaves far exceeds the time and challenge and trouble that it takes while I am working on them. And one other thing, during those four or five weeks, there’s a certain amount of pride that swells up in me that says, “I can do this job even if it’s difficult.”

If you’re experiencing a rough spot in your own leadership experience – maybe it’s a time where everything seems to be “falling” on you and you have to clean up the residue that’s left. I’ll simply say to you that 1) this too shall pass and 2) you were successful in combating the challenge — you’ll be better prepared to deal with it in the future.

Now, for me. Beautiful day. Leaves falling. I’ve got about three more weeks, and I don’t have to worry about it again for another 40 some weeks. I’m going to enjoy that!