Authored by Joe Dorko, Senior Consultant.
I was listening to a song on the radio, “See the World” by Brett Dennen when I heard the line, “Now I’m planting trees I’ll never climb.” Then a thought occurred to me…this is how leadership feels.
As a young pharmacist, I would take time at the end of every shift to observe the prescriptions I had filled for that today. Being able to see my work laid out in front of me gave me a great sense of accomplishment. When I became a hospital CEO, however, it was harder to tangibly see what I did on a particular day and how my work translated to an immediate impact. But alas, that’s the work of leaders. We work in the future. I needed to hear the tune of “Planting trees” to remind me of that.
You see, leaders are not appointed, selected, or elected. Leaders are people doing leadership things, regardless of their position, title, or station in life. Leadership is not about being charismatic, having positional authority, or knowing all the answers. Leaders take us on a journey to a place where we would not have gone on our own. Only later down the road will the fruits of their labor become that much more apparent.
So, what are these things that leaders do? First and foremost, they don’t accept the status quo as people being the best we can be. They see people and systems on a journey of continuous improvement, so they challenge us to elevate ourselves and our organizations to a higher level every day. They show us the little steps we need to take along the way. They are there to help us gain the new skills and knowledge necessary to travel down the road with them. We become engaged and energized, caught up in this vortex of positivity, and we commit, because we are inspired, to a vision that we will help to create.
Today is a new day. Maybe today you’ll challenge that “we’ve always done it that way” process. Or maybe you ask your team what’s one thing can we do differently that will improve a patient outcome, enhance a patient’s experience, or engage our employees. Or maybe you’ll have a meaningful conversation with a staff member to learn about their hopes, dreams, and ambitions, and show how they fit into our vision of the future. I challenge you to be just a little better leader tomorrow than you were yesterday because you learned something today that will change how you lead going forward.
As a young pharmacy manager, I had the good fortune to have someone “plant a tree” by investing in me. My CEO took the time to teach me the things I didn’t learn in college. He provided experiential learning opportunities and most importantly, challenged me to grow. His efforts eventually led to a proverbial tree that I could climb, resulting in a long, successful career in healthcare leadership.
Today I am “planting trees” with you, someone I may never meet in person. I am hoping that by reading this blog today, you will take forward steps on your leadership journey and take others along with you. Remember, the actions we take in the here and now will have an impact in the future. Invest in the future by planting trees today.