It’s What’s on the Inside that Counts

Saguaro Ribs

My wife and I spent last week on a quest. Our quest was to find and photograph the quintessential Saguaro cactus. And this was a great quest.  I wrote a little about it over the week-end and I hope you have had a chance to check out the first leadership lesson I learned from the Saguaro cactus.

And by the way, it is pronounced “sah-wah-ro” and not “sah-gwah-ro”.

Here is the second leadership lesson for us to consider based upon the Saguaro Cactus. It is what’s on the inside that counts.

Many of us who have ever considered the Saguaro cactus cannot get past the exterior to even consider what may be on the inside.

If you can get past the prickly spines of the exterior you will find “ribs” forming a circle below the surface. As impressive (and sometimes painful) as those spines can be, they are only a defensive mechanism for the cactus. It is the interior rib structure that forms the support that enables a fully grown cactus, that can weigh up to 12000 pounds, to stand and support its own massive weight.

I was unaware of the internal structure of the Saguaro until our recent visit to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Here I was able to see up close the wonderful Saguaro Cactus.

What does this have to do with leadership?

It is the internal components, the ribs, of the giant Saguaro that provide the stability and structure that allow it reach a height of more than 70 feet and support a weight of of 4 to 6 tons that is common to a fully grown cactus. But there is more to the story than just a set of ribs.

The ribs form a tight circle that protect and defend the overall health and well-being of the cactus. The ribs are packed close together such that even if a desert predator makes it past the spines and into the fleshy skin of the cactus, it will not be able to penetrate all the way to the core of the cactus. Take a look at the photo at the top of this article. Look at how close together the ribs are placed.

However as strong and supportive as those ribs are, they are also flexible to allow the cactus to expand and contract depending upon the availability of life sustaining water. When water is more plenteous, they expand allowing the cactus to swell to retain and store as much water as possible. And then during the long desert dry spells they contract as the cactus uses the stored water to thrive in the harsh heat and arid Sonoran Desert.

What is the leadership lesson?

The lesson for you and me is that our leadership structure, strength and stability need to come from our core. For many of us those core beliefs are rooted and grounded in Christian values. And it is from that core set of values that we are able to grow ourselves and lead others.

What about you? Are you counting on your exterior qualities to support or protect you? Or are you like the mighty Saguaro and are you standing with the support of a set of strong interior ribs?

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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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