We are currently on a quest. My wife and I are on a quest to find and to photograph the perfect and the “quintessential Saguaro cactus.”
You know the one that I mean. You see it on every Arizona license plate and every Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner cartoon. It has the tall central trunk and one arm on each side that bend at a 90 degree angle and point heavenward. One sits only slightly higher than the other an offer perfect and artful symmetrical balance.
We have seen probably 100,000 Saguaro cactuses in the last few days. We have seen big ones, little ones, solitary ones, multi-armed ones, and we have even seen some blooming ones. But we are having a hard time locating that one that we see drawn or painted in nearly every piece of southwestern art. We cannot seem to locate the one that we have pictured in our mind’s eye. The picture perfect Saguaro cactus.
What does this have to do with leadership?
Many of us are looking for the “quintessential leader.” We are looking for the picture perfect leader. The picture perfect leaders is 39 years old, yet he has 50 years of leadership experience. He is seriously humorous. He is a compassionate tough guy. He is results oriented with a perfect work-life balance. He is perfect.
There is only problem. He is very rare if he exists even at all. He is as rare as the perfect Saguaro cactus.
Yet we have searched every day for that cactus. We looked high and we have looked low. Many times I thought I had spotted one. Only to walk up closer with my camera to find a third “arm” hiding behind the trunk or connected at an awkward angle.
And now, on the last day, as the Sun was setting, and as we were leaving Saguaro National Park for the last time — there it was!
We had pulled the car off the road to check the map on our smartphone and had given up on finding it. Yet, I looked up and saw it standing about 50 yards away. I snapped about a dozen pictures using different settings on my camera. Hopefully I will be able to edit one and it will hang on the wall of our family room after we return home.
What is the leadership lesson?
I spent so much time looking for what I thought would be a great cactus to photograph that I overlooked many very beautiful Saguaros that would, could, and probably should become a photograph and adorn the wall of my family room. But I was so busy looking for something that I thought the perfect cactus would look like that I almost missed many excellent and beautiful specimens. Fortunately I realized the mistake I was making and was able to enjoy the beauty and the variety that abounds in Saguaro National Park.
I also have an idea and a picture in my mind of what the perfect leader looks like. My problem is that I can’t find many of them around. That should not be altogether surprising to me since I am not anywhere near a perfect leader myself and I have tried to hone my leadership skills for many years.
Perhaps from this point forward I will look more at the beauty and the uniqueness that every cactus (and every leader) brings to the camera lens and embrace the beauty that I see and worry a little less about the imperfections that I cannot see.