What Leadership Traits Are You Planting?

A friend of mine sent me this short story about planting leadership traits. It’s simple but profound. Hope you enjoy it and practice its truth.


A successful businessman was growing old and felt it was time to choose a successor to take over the business. Instead of choosing one of his Directors or his children, he decided to do something different. He called all the young executives in his company together and told them, “It is time for me to step down and choose the next CEO. I’ve decided to choose one of you.” The young executives were surprised, when the boss explained the selection process. “I’m going to give each of you a SEED today—one very special seed. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you’ve grown from your seed. I will then judge the plants you bring, and from them, I’ll choose the next CEO.” Jim was one of the young men, and, like the others, he received a seed. He went home and excitedly grabbed a pot, soil and compost and planted it. Everyday, he’d water it and watch for any growth.

After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, and still nothing. While the others were talking about their plants, Jim felt like a failure. 
Six months went by and nothing was springing up. He just knew he had killed his seed. Because everyone else had tall plants, Jim didn’t say anything to his colleagues, but just kept watering and fertilizing the soil.

A year finally ended and the other young executives brought their plants to the CEO for inspection. At first, Jim decided he wasn’t going to take in an empty pot. It would be humiliating. Later, however, he knew he had to be honest about what happened. It was sure to be the most embarrassing moment of his life, but he felt he’d done everything he could. So he took his empty pot to the boardroom. When Jim arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. They were beautiful. In contrast. Jim put his empty pot on the floor. Some looked at it and laughed, while a few felt sorry for him. When the CEO arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted his young protégés. “My, what great plants and flowers you’ve grown,” he said. Suddenly, the CEO spotted Jim at the back of the room with his empty pot. He asked his Financial Director to bring him to the front. Jim was terrified, thinking he was going to get fired. When Jim got to the front, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed. Jim told him the unvarnished truth. The CEO asked everyone to sit down except Jim. He then looked at Jim, and announced to the others: “This is your next Chief Executive Officer.”

Jim couldn’t believe it. Then the CEO explained, “One year ago, I gave you all a seed. I told you to plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But, I gave you all boiled seeds. They were all dead; it was impossible for them to grow. When you found that your seed wouldn’t grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Jim was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he’s the one I trust to be your new Chief Executive Officer.”

It’s a simple story, but reflect for a moment. What leadership traits are you planting?

You get what you plant. If you plant honesty, you reap trust. If you plant humility, you reap greatness. If you plant perseverance, you reap contentment. If you plant consideration, you reap perspective. If you plant forgiveness, you reap reconciliation. If you plant hard work, you reap success. Nothing can substitute for these, and you can’t speed up the process. Artificial fruit doesn’t taste good. So, be careful what you plant; it will determine what you will reap later.

I encourage you to check out www.growingleaders.com to learn more tools about how to navigate your leadership journey and how to help others plant seeds to grow and flourish.


What Leadership Traits Are You Planting?