What Do Leaders And Lemons Have In Common?

This photo is of lemons from my central city roof garden. I love lemons. From their vibrant colour to sour taste and the fact they are ripe in mid-winter when most fruits are dormant.

Lemons are versatile. With this crop, I dried lemon slices for summer drinks, preserved lemons for chickpea tagines, and made cashew nut custard for deserts (recipe here). Spread it on crispbreads with pickles and it makes a great snack.

What have any of these features to do with leaders, you might ask?

I love metaphors, and the idea that at least two things exist at the same time, so here we go.

Standing out from the crowd by knowing their point of difference.

Exceptional leaders know their purpose, the value they add, and what differentiates them from others. They know their achievements, and they know their territory is continually doing things they haven’t done before. They say and do things, and make decisions others can’t, or won’t.

Leaders are versatile.

Exceptional leaders and one trick ponies are different breeds. Effective leaders run great meetings, present simply and powerfully, contribute wisely in groups, have good relationships, know how to collaborate and when to go it alone, and know when to tap into their own or other’s expertise. Effective leaders are both curious, and knowledgeable.

Leaders create vitality.

Leaders are continually doing what hasn’t been done before. They enter the territory of spontaneity, creating fresh and new approaches to old situations that no longer work, or ineffective. They refresh systems and processes and make decisions that create progress.

Leaders are continually doing what hasn’t been done before. They refresh systems and processes and make decisions that create progress. Click To Tweet

The definition of spontaneity is to approach familiar situations in a new way and approach new and unfamiliar situations, adequately i.e. good enough. There are five components of spontaneity:

  • Vitality
  • Adequacy
  • Originality
  • Flexibility
  • Creativity

Leaders are part of a group.

One difference between leaders and lemons is that leaders are appointed to specific positions. However, leaders are only defined as leaders because they are part of the group they are in. Similarly, lemons are part of a genre – in fact there are at least 25 different types of lemons, and even more types of citrus. My roof garden lemons are Meyer, mainly because they are dwarf, and thrive in central city Wellington conditions. However, I love the Japanese Yuzu lemon, especially in Lot 8 Yuzu Olive Oil, which is great to have with pastas, salads and spicy black bean tacos.

Lemons and leaders both benefit from adapting to their environment.

Lemon trees adjust as their environment changes. Extra fertilizer and water are sometimes needed, branches sometimes need trimming, and thinning abundant fruit is required to keep the tree productive.

Just like lemon trees, leaders also need to adapt to their environment, trim their focus to their priorities and learn to expand their existing capacities in order to face new or unexpected situations. Those who do, thrive.

Who would have thought the humble and versatile lemon shares significant similarities with leaders?

Diana Jones ©

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