How are Leadership Teams like a Chinese Bamboo Tree?


Consider this ancient story about a Chinese bamboo tree.

“You take a little seed, plant it, water it, and fertilize it for a whole year, and nothing happens.  The second year you water and fertilize it; nothing happens. The third year you water it and fertilize it; nothing happens. How discouraging this becomes! The fourth year you water it and fertilize it; nothing happens. This is very frustrating. The fifth year you continue to water and fertilize the seed and then sometime during the fifth year, the Chinese bamboo tree sprouts and grows ninety feet in six weeks!”

Wow, why all of a sudden? In its early years, the bamboo tree devotes most of its energy to develop its root system. In general, it takes bamboo about three full years to develop the rhizome system in the ground before it came begin producing shoots. It has to establish its foundation. 

The same holds true for leadership teams.

It takes time to develop the foundation and discipline necessary to generate high performing teams. People don’t automatically come into relationships trusting one another. People have to learn to be vulnerable. Just because you like someone or have worked with them for a long time doesn’t mean you are willing to let your guard down and let people see you warts and all! Teams that are able to embrace vulnerability based trust and get totally honest with one another about their strengths and weaknesses are able to establish a level of trust that creates a firm foundation. Once that foundation is in place, they are able to engage in frank debate that helps them make better decisions. Better decisions that are implemented or executed drive better results.


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