Any good gardener knows three things:

  1. The gardener cannot transform a seed into a tree
  2. The gardener can create the conditions for a seed to transform into a tree
  3. The more appropriate the conditions are for a given fruit-producing tree, the more fruit the tree will produce

The best and most vertically developed leaders understand similarly:

  1. The leader cannot make employees or an organization be successful
  2. If given the right conditions, employees and organizations will grow, blossom, and thrive
  3. The more appropriate the conditions are for a given employee or organization, the more fruit the employee or organization will produce

In short: the best and most vertically developed leaders prioritize tending to their garden and creating the right conditions for their organization and employees. (The best book that portrays this is Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull.)

Is it common for leaders to focus on the “conditions?”

Yesterday, I asked my MBA students the question: On a scale of 1-10, how important should culture be to a CEO? Most said “10” and a few said “9.”

Then, I asked them another question: On a scale of 1-10, how much do CEOs actually prioritize culture? The average answer was about a 4.5.

What do most leaders focus on?

The following table provides a breakdown of what percentage of people and executives operate at the different levels of vertical development:

Mind Level Percentages

What we know from vertical development research is that leaders at different levels of vertical development are internally programmed to focus on different things.

Leaders at Mind 1.0 are programmed to focus on being safe, comfortable, and like they belong. This generally plays out as these leaders holding rigidly to policies and procedures. Doing what is safe and comfortable, not what is best.

Leaders at Mind 2.0 are programmed to focus on standing out, advancing, and getting ahead. This generally plays out as these leaders focusing on hitting their numbers, particularly in the short term. They are willing to sacrifice the well-being of others to succeed in what they are measured upon.

Leaders in both Mind 1.0 and Mind 2.0 are not internally programmed to focus on culture and cultivating the right conditions for their organization and employees.

The only leaders that are able to value culture are those that operate in Mind 3.0. Leaders at Mind 3.0 are programmed to focus on contributing, lifting, and adding value. They recognize that they cannot drive success, they need to create the right conditions for their employees and organization to be successful.

You can see this in these three video clips:

Are You A Gardener?

When you think about your leadership, are you a gardener? Are you more focused on maintaining the status quo, the numbers, or the culture?

Your answer will reveal a lot about your current altitude in your vertical development journal.

(Also, you might get value out of asking your employees what you tend to focus the most on, and even what percentage of the time you spend on each?)