Aspens have an amazing leadership development program. I’ll explain, but first a little background…Aspens are unique trees with their white bark and contrasting black scarring. Most notably they’re known for their explosive golden foliage for three to four weeks in autumn. If I were to ask you to count how many individual aspen trees you see in this picture, you’d likely come up with a number in the 20’s or 30’s…But the fact is, you’d be wrong. Not because your eyesight is off, or because there’s some optical illusion in the photo but because of how aspens reproduce.
Aspens have long lateral root systems, from which shoots emerge that grow into full blown trees. These new trees are all part of one root structure which in aggregate, is called a clone. Aspen clones can cover less than an acre, up to 100 acres! Imagine that this next photo, containing hundreds of aspens, could be one clone (one inter-connected root system) that originated from one aspen tree!
Here’s another cool thing about aspens. Though individual trees rarely age past 150 years, the clone (root system) can live on for 5,000 years or longer! Even after wildfires ravage a forest of aspens, the clone lives on producing new shoots. This is why aspen groves are often found in areas prone to wildfires. Where other tree types cannot recover from the devastation, the aspen’s clone (start thinking leadership development program) provides for it to live on. The aspen has and will continue to have a long and robust legacy.
So why am I telling you all this and what has it got to do with leadership?
First (and I’ve talked about this before) as leaders we must duplicate ourselves. (2 Timothy 2:2). While there’s a “leader” among these aspens, you and I can’t tell which one that is. It’s duplicated itself so well, that almost any of them could be the leader.
Next; the reality is that each of these aspens are in fact, leaders in their own right. They were once just shoots from the root system and now are each integral to that system, producing shoots of there own (there’s 2 Timothy 2:2 again!).
Lastly, the system that the original leader (and now subsequent leaders) has developed is so strong, that many of these “leaders” could be taken out (think; burned down, die of old age or get hit by an ice cream truck), but the clone (replace that with business, family, organization, ministry) will go on. Why? Because the roots are strong and the leadership development program is relentless!
So, if you’re a leader, look around at the people you lead. Do you see a stand of other aspens (leaders) or at least shoots (developing leaders) within your sphere of influence? Are they being nourished by a root system that you’ve watered and fed?
So my encouragement to you is to lead like an aspen and in doing so, you’ll leave a legacy that lasts long after old age, wild fires and rogue ice cream trucks have done their damage.