Picture an apple.
Now, close your eyes and just think of all the things you could do with that apple.
What did you come up with?
If you’re like most people, you probably thought of things like eat it, peel it, cut it up, share it, take the seeds and grow an orchard, make applesauce, make apple pie, maybe put it on someone’s head and shoot an arrow at it. You might have even thought of throwing it at someone.
Those are the typical responses I get from my audiences when I ask that question. And that’s great. But, let’s do it again.
Now, close your eyes and think about all the things you could do with it if there were no right or wrong answers, if no one was going to make fun of you, if you could do anything in the world with it.
What did you come up with? Anything different from the first round?
One woman told me, “Scoop it out and make a soup bowl out of it.” Another said, “Hide secret messages in it.”
But you could also carve pictures in the side of it. You could use it for skeet shooting practice. You could put it on a stick and cover it in caramel.
You could create an inspirational brand for your global computer empire.
The apples in your life are your staff members, your colleagues, your kids, and your relationships with your spouse, partner, friends, and family members.
What does your leadership look like if the greatest potential you see in your people is applesauce? I didn’t say that their greatest potential is applesauce. I said that that’s all you can see.
There’s nothing wrong with applesauce ,but if it’s the only thing you see, if that’s the highest level your imagination reaches, then you will treat everyone as if the only thing they’re capable of is being applesauce. You will see them as applesauce and treat them as applesauce.
As a consequence, you won’t get anything more than applesauce from them.
What if you put your fear, ego, and impatience aside and asked them for their opinion? What if you tapped into all of their experiences and the way they see the world? What kinds of ideas and potential solutions would appear?
How much more invested in your leadership would they be when they see you put them first, when they see you nurture who they are in order to make your organization what it could be?
To me, that is the essence of leadership — nurturing others, encouraging others to mine their own talents, to dig into their own experiences, to be present in the act of creating something new, instead of standing on the sidelines. In turn, they will help you lift your big, heavy boulders that you can’t lift yourself.
In the process, you’ll create and achieve more than you ever thought possible.