At this point in our journey through the Health and Leadership Pyramid we make the shift from inward to outward health.
The pyramid is intentionally structured this way. Far too many leaders (and their followers) prize only the outward fruit of leadership: charisma, the ability to draw a crowd, increased budgets and profits, loyal subjects.
But inside they are wasting away.
When we moved into our house five years ago, the back yard had a massive black walnut tree. It provided shade, delicious walnuts, and attracted more than our fair share of critters. We had all assortments of birds, squirrels, and other wildlife regularly in our backyard. So many in fact, that it was difficult for us to ever get any walnuts.
But about two years go, we started to notice some rough spots on certain parts of the tree. Branches that once appeared vibrant and full of life were almost instantly rotting and ruined.
Eventually, the tree had to come down.
Curiously though, it continues to grow back every year despite our efforts to keep it trimmed down.
And every spring, it pops up out of the ground, green, vibrant, and full of life. Yet by fall, this tree that now stands about six fee tall begins to show signs of disease and sickness again. So we cut it down, it lies dormant over the winter, and in spring, new life appears.
But that health and vitality is only surface deep. Inside, the tree is diseased and infected, a danger not only to itself but other trees should the infection spread. And so every fall, we cut it down again.
Our life as a leader is similar to that tree if we focus only on the external fruits of leadership: following, status, influence, and pay grade. Outwardly, for a time, you will produce fruit, healthy walnuts like the tree from my backyard. But eventually, when you neglect your soul and the inward dynamics and dimensions for healthy leadership, you will falter, fail, and wither away. What once appeared healthy and full of life will be shown to be rotting, full of decay and disease.
That’s why the Health and Integrity Pyramid is intentionally structured the way it is. In the coming weeks, we will be examining the outward characteristics of healthy leadership. But realize that it will be pointless if the inward dynamics and practices are first in order and in abundance.
Because you will not be able to take others to places in leadership development that you yourself have not gone.
You will never be able to sustain longevity without the foundations of internal health.
A life of legacy will only be possible if we as leaders have internal characteristics of integrity, honesty, and humility.
In order for you to live outwardly the dimensions of influence and impact, you must first discipline internally how you commit to being.
In healthy leadership, internal will always supply the external.
Take a lesson from our walnut tree on what not to do. Focus not first on external fruit or superficial production, but create a healthy inner leadership discipline before seeking to influence or lead others.
Otherwise, the unhealthy traits in ourselves will become the main fruit of our leadership, sickening and poisoning those we come in contact with. When we leave a wake of leadership destruction, we lose our credibility, damage others, and invalidate the message we bring.