As leaders, we strive to find out what the potential of each of our direct reports is. What are they capable of now and what are they capable of in the future. As you probably have seen, there are many motivational posters out there about reaching your potential. The best analogy I have heard about it revolves around acorns.
How much potential does one single acorn have? Well an acorn comes from an oak tree. So, if you plant an acorn and care for it, it will eventually turn into an oak tree. As that oak tree grows, it in turn will produce acorns. Multiple acorns. Each of those acorns are potential oak trees, which produce more acorns and so on and so forth. So, to answer the question of how much potential does one single acorn have? Well, it can produce a forest.
I like the acorn analogy for leadership, as opposed to the pebble in water/ripple effect analogy, because as leaders we have to power and opportunity to shape numerous employees. While they won’t ALL become leaders, we are able to create full on leaders by our example. As acorns have the ability to produce eventual oak trees. Where as the ripple effect has a diminishing quality the further you get from center, the acorn analogy shows consistency and strength no matter how far from the source you are.
If you look at each direct report and see them as acorns, you have the ability to help them achieve the best they can be. In turn, as they grow and move along in their career, they can pay it forward and influence others within their reporting tree.
All leaders have the potential to create a forest of leaders. The NFL does something like this with their Coaching Trees and I think it is very apt. It would be a neat plugin for LinkedIn or something to have where you can input influential leaders in your career and see what Leadership Trees get created.
It all starts with having your sound base foundation and core values to work from in order to make sure you fulfill your own potential. Then you can work on helping others fulfill theirs.