Orchids & the Leader Lens

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Not an impulse buyer, I was surprised to find myself buying an orchid plant at our local market. It was just the right size to beautify our tiny kitchen. I found a plant I thought to be a real showstopper. It was covered with intense, fuchsia blooms. I hoped they would last a few months, meaning I hoped I wouldn’t kill it. I planned to take care of it, and give it the best shot at success I could.
The orchid exceeded my expectations. It’s been blooming for nearly 18 months, with more buds forming. I can’t claim to be the reason this orchid is going nuts, but it’s clearly happy in its little space. I water it, prune the deadheads, but really, it’s a self organizing orchid. It grows new shoots, forms new buds, and keeps blooming over and over.
The problem is, after that first round of blossoms, the new ones mostly opened facing away from my view, and continue to right now. I could turn the plant to see the blooms, but then it will be in great peril. Flanked by the busy sink and the toaster, it has to sit there just so, or it will be damaged.


My prolific orchid that had exceeded my expectations now irritated me. Why couldn’t it make more blossoms so that I could enjoy them? I wanted this plant to proliferate, but on my terms. It reminds me of a common pitfall of leaders in the workplace, and at home: using a personal lens instead of a leader lens. There is nothing wrong with having a personal lens, it can get a bit over competitive at times, but mostly, we use it to relate to others and build relationships. When used in the wrong context as a leader, you will derail your team and lose trust, stopping growth.
If you are leading a self organized team and pushing them to bloom a certain direction, you’re not using the leader lens, you’re using your personal lens. If you say you empower people and want them to grow their own way, but then shut down ideas that are not built off of yours (or completely yours), you are using your personal lens. If you are a parent, and you push your child to do the things you want them to do, despite their desire to try something new, you are using your personal lens.
The leader lens offers vision, nurtures, and removes impediments, even if it means it’s not done your way. Leading this way is a challenge, but the reward is people exceeding your expectations, in new, creative ways you would have never thought of on your own.


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