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May 3-4

Alain Cardon – The art of leadership

March 12, 2017 by gabi0

A short coaching story about building things, taken from Alain’s site

In Egypt today, when driving in places where there once existed only sand and rocks, one can often see endless rows of strong, tall evergreen trees, for hundreds of hectares.  If it were not for the sand under the pine needles, the scene could seem to be transplanted from much more hospitable regions, such as from Mediterranean and European landscapes.

Now, how did this miracle take place?  How were these trees grown in such unlikely drought-ridden areas where never falls a drop of rain?  “Irrigation with bountiful water diverted from the Nile River of course”, may be an educated guess offered by unknowing onlookers. But that answer is very far from the truth.   Any older local Bedouin can tell the real story.

Decades ago, in the middle of the desert, people patiently planted very small trees, barely bigger than twigs, painstakingly, one by one, for miles on end.  For years, these small shrubs were individually watered,  but Just enough to keep them alive.  Knowingly, they were kept at survival level.  Consequently, for years, these future trees didn’t grow at all.  No apparent progress could support a strong motivation to continue the patient development program.  For decades, the potential trees seemed to be doomed to remain small, the size of ornamental shrubs, burning under the scorching sun.

But hidden from human eyes, these evergreens patiently grew deeper and deeper roots.  Their apparent growth was almost inexistent, but underground they reached deeper and deeper, searching for an almost hypothetical water table.  In time, over tens of years, they finally achieved their distant goal.  Only then could their growth shift directions, and they started to reach for the sky.

Today, many years later, these shrubs have become trees.  They are big, healthy and numerous.  In some areas, the forests they constitute have completely transformed the landscape.  For the unsuspecting, their story is unknown, and travelers probably think the success is due to industrial means, applied on a very large scale.  If that had been the case, the result would be very different.  These trees would have much shorter roots, and would still be dependent on man for irrigation.  It is not the case, for their success is durable and sustainable.  It rests on their individual survival skills, their uncommonly deep and resilient roots.

The success runs even deeper, however, if one is to consider a major collateral outcome.  Over the years, these trees have also participated in creating another miracle.  In the areas where they stand, their exceptionally deep roots have succeeded in raising the water table much closer to the surface.

In the areas that these trees have prepared, it is now possible to plant other trees and shrubs that can access underground water much more rapidly.  Numerous varieties of smaller, less sturdy plants almost naturally settle in the transformed environment and make it their home.   These younger newcomers don’t realize how much they owe the first generation of local developers, and the older trees. In time, the early struggle for survival, searching for that inaccessible water table may even be forgotten.

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