Why Leaders Need To Develop Their Root System

We don’t normally see roots. We see the results of roots – a strong healthy plant and its fruit. A leader’s roots are hidden out of sight but the condition of those roots is clearly evident in the life of the leader. Weak roots make a weak leader.

My neighbor had a 150 foot tall Douglas fir tree that was probably 70 years old. One day, it started dropping all it’s needles. After a couple of weeks it was a naked, sick-looking giant.

The tree died even though it was so strong and healthy for 70 years before. Something had gotten into its roots and weakened them. Without the nutrition and water that flow through the roots, the tree couldn’t survive.

Leaders also have a root system that is just as vital to our health.

The Leader’s Root System

The thing about a leader’s root system is that there are a number of different roots. We’re not like a carrot with one big root that shoots straight down. We’re not going to be okay by just focusing on one root and letting the others shrivel. Each is important.

Here are five critical roots every leader needs to continually develop in order to stay strong and productive:

  1. Relational roots. The people in our lives and the quality of those relationships hugely influence us positively or negatively. How much love do you extend and receive from others? Do your friendships challenge you? What work needs to be done to build with those closest too you?
  2. Character roots. You can’t outrun bad character for long. It catches up to you. Character development is a life-long process with increasing challenges to our patience, honesty, trustworthiness, graciousness, kindness, and love.
  3. Spiritual roots. We are spiritual as well as physical beings. Tending to our spiritual root, by weeding and watering and pruning, grounds us. Doing this in community with others is essential. Otherwise, all too often we create a comfortable me-centered spirituality void of Divine power and revelation.
  4. Mental roots. Mental roots grow through thinking deeply and reflecting on things outside our normal mental scope. That’s why great leaders read and read broadly. They keep learning. They keep integrating new ways of viewing the world, as well as facts.
  5. Physical roots. I’ve seen leaders sidelined because of gross-negligence of their physical health. Leading requires stamina and physical as well as mental strength. Many illnesses and physical conditions are habit-induced. We cause them by our lifestyle. We can also prevent them with a different lifestyle.

Like a tree’s root system, our roots extend in different directions. Our roots anchor us against life’s storms. They feed us and sustain us. They are responsible for the fruit that our lives bear.

As leaders grow, so must their root system. A root structure that supports a 10 foot tree will not support a 50 foot tall tree for long.

We need to do the necessary work to maintain the health and growth of our root system. This largely unseen work doesn’t get much attention or applause. No one notices weak roots until the tree has died. By then it’s too late.

Which of your roots need some attention? Now is the time to do something about it. Decide one thing you are going to do and make it happen today.

Question: How do you develop your root system? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

    Keith is President of Creative Results Management. He helps busy leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

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