The Trees - and the Forest

In a conversation with a student and colleague yesterday, the old adage of not being able to see the forest for the trees was brought up. While the two of us focused on the need for leaders to keep pointing out the forest to those who had become obsessed with the trees, another thought entered my mind - if we don't ever focus on the trees, we will lose the forest.

It's really a simple idea - the forest is made up of many individual trees. Each tree adds something to the texture of the forest. Each tree provides a new way to see and understand the forest. And each tree brings its own unique color and shape to the forest. If we forget about the individual tree, we will soon lose the parts that make up the whole. Similar to how St. Paul describes the body of Christ where EACH PART is important and has its own role. So what should a leader do about this?

Yet another paradox of leadership is that while obsessively focusing on the forest, the leader is also taking care of the trees. If leadership is about people (and it is) then the leader, while being a fanatic for the organization is also fighting for the individual. Without individuals, there is no whole. Without individuals, the organization fails. Without individuals, there are no followers...which in turn means there is no leader.

So be sure to see the forest - be sure others see the forest - but take the time to look closely at each tree.