TREE WISDOM: Grounded, Collaborative, Reaching for the Light

The greatness of community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” —Coretta Scott King

In The Hidden Life of Trees, a forest manager in Germany discusses how trees planted in separate silos in commercial settings don't live as long or thrive in the same ways that trees do when evolving in relationship together. Trees form other cooperative partnerships, which can last hundreds of years, specifically with mycelium webs. Turns out trees - like lions and zebras and humans - are social and thus capable of learning, communicating, and taking care of one another and even collaborating with other creatures! 

So, when we talk about the Three Pillars of Leadership model, our inspiration is not the column in Greek architecture but the deeply-rooted trunks of trees, whose limbs reach for the light, whose canopies offer spaces in which to gather, and whose lives are most productive when integrated into a larger, more collaborative ecosystem. This is precisely what we are aiming for in coaching and within the Leadership Learning Communities that we create.

The Three Pillars of Leadership:™ A hOLISTIC COMPETENCY MODEL

The Three Pillars of Leadership is an attempt to simplify the range of competencies for leadership development -- without oversimplifying or playing favorites. Scan the pillars below and identify one to two things you would like to cultivate in the coming year. Scan again and identify what each of your team members would most benefit from cultivating. This is the start of competency-based conversations about leadership!



Enhance self-awareness; manage disruptive moods; commit to growth; be calm, create energy for renewal

Increase Self-Awareness & Humility

Explore personality style using the Enneagram & observe patterns of thinking, feeling & behaving; monitor ego & inner critic activity; develop a vocabulary for emotions; clarify values; see breakdowns you cause

Increase Personal Competency

Manage disruptive moods; master work tasks; take initiative; display sincerity & reliability; enhance perseverance; prioritize initiatives; say ‘no’ to distractions; tap gut instinct to guide decisions; create a leadership declaration; invest in personal growth

Increase Adaptability Amidst Change

Experiment; learn from failure as well as success; see opportunities in change; shift gears as required (e.g., perspectives, pace, behavior, etc.)

Embody Calm & Resilience

Engage in mindfulness & centering practices to bring a calm presence to stressful conditions; engage in self-care & recreation to renew energy; balance ability to extend with ability to rest & reflect

 The self as The
"Center" of Leadership


Social Competence

Foster trust & optimism; manage conflict; coordinate action; coach & support others; show appreciation

Build Trusting Relationships

Reveal personal history; listen with patience & curiosity; hear concerns; keep confidences; admit mistakes; build mutual purpose & respect; use MORF Process to convert complaints to shared longings & inspiring directions

Develop Competency in Others

Recognize gifts; coach for new competencies; teach people how to succeed; collaborate on possibilities; share responsibility & decision-making; support creativity & innovation; create leadership learning communities

Coordinate Skillful Action

Declare aims clearly; communicate expectations; make clear requests; invite input & check assumptions before launching solutions; keep promises; ground assessments & share feedback with dignity; negotiate win-win deals

Increase Positive Affect

Be approachable; reinforce values;
use humor constructively; be inclusive; create time for fun; foster hope & optimism; recognize & celebrate others’strengths & contributions in more visible ways

Conversations as the "process" of leadership


Leadership Presence

Read the world; reinforce vision; tell stories that move both hearts & minds; sense organizational resilience

Become More Visionary

Interpret emerging trends & ambiguous cues in the world; communicate a meaningful vision for the future; articulate a strategic frame for work; envision what can be created first & how to get started

Expand Influence

Tell stories that inspire & invite others into a shared future; sense collective mood & unspoken needs; understand both formal channels & informal networks; enroll strong allies; show broad-ranging interests; study excellence; create teams of leaders

Support the Mission Holistically

Drive big results; organize around differentiated strengths & assets; invest in process innovation; create a culture of learning & growth; eliminate roadblocks; be sensitive to the pace of change & limits to organizational capacity & resources

Demonstrate Wisdom, Compassion & Courage

Embrace paradox; appraise situations objectively; respond based on conditions; take courageous stands, model grace & integrity under pressure; live into personal calling; walk the talk

The World as the "Theaterof Leadership

Performance Reviews Prep using the Three Pillars of Leadership

When it comes time to do performance reviews, the Three Pillars of Leadership is a valuable tool in identifying a person’s strengths as well as areas for improvement. Many of our clients share this model with team members, helping them map a larger leadership development framework.

Asking team members to do a self-assessment first makes performance reviews more inherently reflective and collaborative. When reviews evolve from marks and grades to more authentic dialogues in support of both growth and needs for help, everyone relaxes a bit, and relationships are strengthened in the process.