Modeling the leadership of the Sequoia

Sequoia trees are among the most majestic in any forest. Taller and wider than that any plant or animal on earth, these trees are one of the most impressive sites to ever behold.

The trees start out much like the average pine tree. Growing at a rate of approximately 2 feet per year, the Sequoia is one of the fastest-growing trees. It will take around 100 years for the tree to reach its full height. Eventually the tree will stand well over 200 feet tall with a trunk diameter well in excess of 35 feet. One variety of Sequoia, the Coast Redwood, has been known to reach as high as 367 feet. Massive size is not the only reason sequoias are noteworthy -- they live for 1,500 to 2,000 years.

Standing in the midst of Sequoia National Forest, my entire family was amazed at the magnitude of the trees. The massive trunks, huge branches, and towering height makes one almost feel as if they had been put in the washing machine and shrunk to the size of an insect.

Given their size and rapid growth rate one might wonder why sequoias haven't fully covered the face of the earth. However, the Sequoia can only grow naturally in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Sequoia seeds are produced in the trees bark. At full maturity, the seed will be about the size of a tomato and will remain in the tree’s bark until a specific, seemingly unnatural event takes place.

Defying logic, the “disaster” a Sequoia needs for survival

One of the greatest dangers to a forest is fire. A single forest fire can be responsible for wiping out hundreds of square acres of vegetation. Forest fires will typically leave nothing but destruction and charred remains in their aftermath. In virtually every forest, fires are seen as a catastrophic event with horrible repercussions.

This is not true in Sequoia National Forest.

The only way the Sequoia can reproduce is when there IS a fire.

The Sequoia’s fertile seeds will remain and the bark until set free by a forest fire. As the fire moves through the Sequoia habitat, the fire heats up the trunks of the mighty tree.

The tree itself will not burn in the fire as the bark is not flammable. Eventually the bark will become hot enough to release the seed, which will fall to the ground where it will be implanted in the fertile post-fire ashes and begin its multi-millennial life.

It is breathtaking to sit on the ground at the base of one of these gigantic trees. The mature sequoias tower into the sky as if reaching into the heavens. Despite the trees’ massiveness, rays of sunshine stream through the trees on a journey to the floor of the forest where they will, along with periodic rain, provide nutrients to the rapidly growing seedlings -- and to the undergrowth that will be fuel for a future fire!

The leadership lessons so powerfully demonstrated by the Sequoia tree are especially pertinent for contemplation in any leader’s life. What we see in the forest is an example of nature taking a leadership role for the survival of this wonderful species of tree.

The trees became leaders without placing personal interest above the interest of the forest. They did not overcrowd those below them, though they easily could have, They provide a lesson for all of us.

4 truths about Sequoia Leaders

The mighty and beautiful Sequoia Forest in California provides an excellent lesson in leadership. Here are the truths about leadership one can find while meditating under these magnificent trees.

  1. Leaders are most effective in their “perfect environment”. The area in which the Sequoia thrives is limited by external conditions. No matter what the Sequoia does it cannot survive beyond the borders of its forest. Likewise, leaders will find their own “forest” where conditions are perfect for their natural style of leadership.
  2. Allow future leaders to grow. Mature sequoias tower over the younger trees. However, they still allow sun and rain to permeate all levels of the forest. Leaders must also allow those whom they lead an opportunity to flourish.
  3. Adversity is essential. Without adversity, in the form of forest fires, the Sequoia would become extinct. Likewise, leaders and the people they lead need to experience occasional adversity in order to strengthen their cohesiveness. Through diversity they will learn each other’s strengths and help each other to overcome weaknesses. It is only through the fires they face that they will be able to realize their potential as a team and as individuals.
  4. Do not allow adversity to burn you. Just as the Sequoia uses adversity for the continuation of life, leaders need to use adversity for their own personal growth and the growth of those they lead. Everyone has a choice in how they will react to the negative instances in their path. Leaders choose to stay positive.

Are you a Sequoia Leader?

Do you have what it takes to take disasters and turn them into an event that allows for a stronger team?

Are you leading from above by providing the resources and nutrients for an ecosystem that develops successful people at all levels, including tomorrow's leaders?

CONTACT us about how you and/or your team can become Sequoia Leaders.