Week 41: Palm Tree or Oak?

When I lived in the Florida panhandle, we experienced frequent hurricanes every year. Among the two most prominent trees throughout Florida—the palm tree and the oak—the oak stood the best chance of surviving the storms.

Many times, I saw fully-developed palm trees hauled on trucks to places they were planted to adorn homes, hotels, neighborhoods and streets. Their root system was wrapped up like a ball in burlap, making them easy to transplant, pop into the ground and prop up with sticks until the roots took hold in the sand. The native oak trees in Florida, however, were not transplants. Their root systems were deep and expansive, and though grounded in sand like the palm, their roots easily held fast through hurricane-force winds.

The parable of Jesus comes to mind when speaking of shallow or deep roots. He spoke of two foundations for a house—the foundation of sand and the foundation of rock. The principle’s the same for the house as for a tree. When the storms come and the winds blow fierce, the depth and strength of the root system [or a foundation] determines whether it survives.

Leaders are called to build something, to plant something. Something that’ll survive the inevitable storms of life in a fallen, unpredictable world. Foundations and roots are invisible—underground. The building or plant visible above ground may look awesome, it may look amazing and strong, but a strong storm will test its longevity.

To build or plant for longevity requires skill and much patience. Longevity requires building an infrastructure, developing the product [or service], and setting a team in place before going to market. The product or the service can only weather the market—it’s ups and downs—if the infrastructure and team are on solid ground with a strong root system. It takes time to get there. It requires patience to build. The taller the skyscraper, the deeper the foundation and the longer it takes to build the foundation before the building appears. The vision, the graphic renderings of a skyscraper against the skyline are not viable without the foundation.

You can’t build a website, launch it, and say here’s what we offer or what we’re going to do until the foundation is in place and the roots have spread wide and deep. The challenge today for a leader—in the days of Instagram, instant satisfaction, instant results, or the tyranny of the urgent—is to patiently build the infrastructure and team that can create the services or product to take to market and respond immediately to the demand and the storms he or she will face.

To build a skyscraper on a rock, to build a house on a rock requires demolition, clearing, digging, removing dirt, and wiring thousands of feet of steel-bar framework, placed in plywood forms, to receive thousands of pounds of poured concrete to set and harden for the foundation. It requires architectural blueprints, permits, approval of bureaucrats, going through red tape, lawyers, and multiple building inspectors for each phase of the building before opening for business or moving in. All which requires great patience.

David dreamed for decades of building a house for God in Jerusalem. He fought years of battles to drive out his enemies until there was peace and safety enough to build this temple. God gave him the location and the plans for the building. He also gave David the materials, the craftsman and every necessary resource to build it. But he refused David the pleasure to build it himself and assigned his son, Solomon, to fulfill the dream.

God had a timing and a specific man, other than David, to carry out the project. What Solomon built was spectacular, but David patiently laid the groundwork, did all the clearing through battles, the storing of gold, silver and precious stones, everything necessary to achieve the final goal. It was his assignment to provide Solomon with all things necessary to succeed in the actual building. It took David forty years to lay the foundation for it. It took Solomon twenty years to build it. The temple stood for over 400 years.

Leaders must be patient through the foundational process. They must understand that anything that lasts requires a strong root system, a strong foundation, a strong infrastructure and a strong leadership team to carry out the mission, before it becomes visible, before it goes to market, so that it will survive every unforeseen storm with lasting power.

Posted on February 5, 2017 in Leadership

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