Friday, January 9, 2015

Are Your Roots Deep and Strong?

Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program logo with roots
Leadership development is similar to growing a tree. With proper care and nourishment, our roots grow deep and strong. Without proper care, we may still grow. Our roots may grow shallow, reducing our ability to withstand the elements. Our future growth and ability to thrive compromised.

The Leadership Environment
The environment in which growth occurs has an impact on development. The tree on the left (below) is the parent to the one on the right. Neither has a pot big enough to support proper development. The parent gets an abundant amount of light from an east-facing window; the offspring, only light from a north-facing window and weekday office lighting.


Both trees are root-bound, but the branches give us insight into their early development. The parent probably had a container, possibly this pot, large enough to support its initial growth. The offspring was transplanted from the parent's pot into one about half the size of the one shown. When transplanted to its current pot, the offspring had plenty of room to grow. Now, the pot inhibits growth and resiliency. Because the pots are not the plant's native enviornments, they must rely upon outside intervention to provide for their care.

Becoming the Master Gardener of Your Development
Just as with tree growth and development, we need a quality leadership development environment in order to grow and thrive. To develop strong, deep roots, we need space and proper care; and we cannot rely upon someone else to provide for our nurturing. If we only take the classes our superiors allow us to take and never dig any deeper, our roots will grow shallow--our roots bound by the limitations of our environment. By becoming the master gardeners of our own development, we remove the limits for growth and development, and the opportunity for developing strong roots and sturdy branches emerges.

Continued Nurturing
As with the trees, we cannot just plant the seeds of leadership and ignore them. We cannot take a class or attend an event, feed it for a short period, and then drop our care for the next best thing. We owe it to ourselves and those with whom we live and serve to be good leaders--to become life-long learners both on and off the fireline. Leadership transcends wildland fire service boundaries; we are leaders in our homes and communities as spouses, parents, and productive members of society.

Wildland Fire Leadership Challenge - Digging a Little Deeper

  • What are you doing to further your leadership development? Take a moment to develop a strategy to nurture your leadership self-development. Schedule time in your calendar to grow and thrive. This may include reading, volunteering, mentoring, taking a class, attending an event, listening to a podcast, or assume a leadership position outside your day job.
  • Be an active participant in leadership development activities. Avoid the "listen-to-me" courses and "do" leadership development. Try things outside your comfort zone. Play as you learn by using experiential learning tools.
  • Assess your leadership environment. Are you limited by your present job or environment? What can you do to overcome the limitations of your container? Do you need a new job or a different perspective? What will help you grow and thrive?
About the Author:
Pam McDonald is a writer/editor for BLM Wildland Fire Training and Workforce Development and member of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee. The expressions are those of the author.

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