“A quick guide for leadership orchard growers.”

How soon organizations forget, there’s no such thing as instant, mature and effective leadership. Leadership development is a lot like growing fruit trees. It takes time and the next generation will probably benefit more from the trees you plant.

Great trees start with good seeds or stock. When picking potential leaders, pick people with the personal leadership basics already in place. Integrity, trustworthiness, a spirit of excellence and a passion to win all buried deep in a servant’s heart. These should never be optional, but the starting baseline.

Choose people that have leadership gifting and the ability to create the future, not just the ability to manage today’s challenges. Great care and attention given to poor seed or the wrong gift still produces mediocre trees. Plant more trees than you need because, for whatever reason, some seedlings never make it to excellence.

Otherwise, you fill leadership opportunities with inferior leaders regardless how personable and committed the individual. You can’t invest in everyone. Make sure you’re watering and fertilizing the right seed. If not, in a few years you will be disappointed by the results and a waste of valuable resources.

Your seven-step guide for leadership orchard growers:

First, prepare the soil: Check your organization’s culture, does it grow or stunt leadership growth? You may need to plow up yesterday’s model and mindset about leadership and management and plant new seeds.

Second, enrich the soil: Fertilize, water, and make sure the sun has access to integrity, justice, and fairness. Burn off the fog and pull the weeds that obscure the path to these and other core values.

Third, rotate the crops: Give your leaders a variety of challenges and opportunities. Don’t burn them out but neither bore them, both cause great people to leave you.

Fourth, let the fields lay fallow: Not all trees bear fruit every year, even the most productive trees need times of rest. Create margins. Give your leaders time to think, reflect and catch up.

Fifth, observe where plants thrive: A leader who struggles in one field may thrive in another. Even the best leaders are not experts in every area. Find out what makes them tick and what ticks them off.

Sixth, prune the dead wood: Be slow to plant (appoint) but quick to prune (replant) and burn if necessary (release to other fields). The leader who helped you reach yesterday’s goal may not be an asset today.

Seventh, let the tap roots go deep: The water of support and inspiration many times lie deep underground. Trees that grow and flourish year after year have deep roots.

Every organization needs one person responsible for growing, educating and training leaders. The content, process and execution must be relevant, timely and productive. Most of all the training must enhance the mission, vision, values and strategy.

When was the last time you inspected your leadership orchard?