Nuts and Trees

Legacy Leadership Lessons from a Tiny Acorn

I may have mentioned a time or two before that I love great quotes. The more obscure and pithier the quote, the more I like it. And if I can find a Latin quote, well, that makes it better than a Will Rodgers or Mark Twain quote by far!

I think I have established a new high-water mark for obscure quotes today when I present this one for your consideration:

ex glande quercus

What does it mean?

The phrase is Latin and it is the motto of what was once a proud and noble institution but has become an ill-performing secondary school in England. In fact, recently, the school was in the lowest 20% quintile amongst similar schools nationally. In 2012, only 40% of the pupils enrolled there attained acceptable scores in English and mathematics. Following an inspection in December 2012, the school was placed in “Special Measures” under the Education Act of 2005 because it was failing to provide an acceptable standard of education and the persons responsible for leading, managing, and governing the school were not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvements in the achievements of pupils, quality of teaching, standards of behavior, and managerial leadership.

Oh, have I neglected to give you the translation of the Latin phrase from above that thrilled me so much? Have you “Googled” it already and found it out for your self? Here is the translation:

From acorn to oak.

Let me let that just sink in for a few minutes. “From acorn to oak.” What do you suppose that means for you and I today as leaders?

I could wax philosophically about the virtues and the responsibilities of leadership. But I will not do that today. Rather, I will leave you with one more quote to ponder. It is from British comedian and talk show host, Clive Anderson:

“Schoolchildren and older people like the idea of planting trees. For children, it’s interesting that an acorn will grow into an oak, and for older people, it’s a legacy. And the act of planting a tree is not that difficult.”

What is the Leadership Lesson?

Leaders, you are planting and nurturing acorns every day. And you are leaving a legacy of one sort or another. Pouring a little water and shining a little light on your little acorn isn’t that hard. You just have to take some time and do it. You have to make it a priority. Otherwise, you end up with the unfortunate situation like that school in England — your followers will be performing at a very unfulfilling and even at a detrimental level.

The ultimate result of neglect may be in a complete collapse of leadership. Weak, scrawny trees cannot survive long hot Summers. Likewise, weak followers will never develop into strong leaders. In fact, they may not even develop into strong followers. As leaders, we must be nurturing our followers and looking for those who show the potential to become leaders as well. 





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I am the husband of a beautiful and wonderful woman. I am the father of two of the greatest kids on the planet. I am a father-in-law to a great young woman. And I am Papa to three very special grandchildren. In my spare time I am an active blogger and writer. And if there is any time left over, I work with small non-profit organizations and churches on the topics of change management, crisis intervention and leadership development.

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