Apple computers may have created a phenomenal global brand aligned to this delicious fruit, but I just wonder if they have missed some of the powerful symbolism that surrounds the apple itself.
We first hear about apples in the stories of Adam & Eve. These two were having a great time until they ate an apple from the forbidden tree of knowledge. Then things started to change. There is some debate about which fruit was actually eaten and some think “forbidden fruit” is really a metaphor for the “fruit of the womb” or sex and procreation.
Whichever view you take, apples are nutritious and bring many health benefits; they also contain all they need to reproduce the next generation of apples. It is this ability that links to my thoughts about conscious leaders.
In my metaphor an apple has two roles. It provides:
- nourishment, health and well-being to all those who eat from them
- the seeds that will allow new apples trees to grow and produce their own apples
Aren’t these some of the key qualities that you would expect of a leader? Forget the person leading the charge into battle, think instead of the person who enables life to develop and flourish. Our future lies in collaboration and growth not the carnage and slaughter that come from war.
Let me look at these two roles in a little more detail.
Being able to nurture and support the well-being of others is a vitally important role for any leader. The vast majority of parents take this job seriously for their children, but somehow lose their way when it comes to other adults. We all need help from time to time and so often it feels we have to struggle on alone. When we are at our best we bring all our capabilities to bear, and when we are down we are diminished. Caring for other people is a deeply human quality. Taking responsibility for the well-being and care of others is the quality of a leader. Leaders who recognise this responsibility allow others to be nourished by their presence and their actions. They rarely take responsibility for the lives of others, but they do provide the nourishment for them to grow. This takes me onto my next point.
Each generation extends the knowledge and learning of what it means to be human. Our development can only take place if we create the conditions for new leaders to emerge. It is important that our current leaders plant the seeds for the next generation so that they can take over in due course. Planting the seeds and providing nurture is often all that is needed. An apple seed has all the knowledge that it needs to grow into a healthy tree without any interference. If we meddle we can affect the growth of the tree. We can stunt its growth by planting the seeds in poor soil. We can train and prune the tree so that it becomes a productive member of the orchard. This may sound good but it is not what nature intended and does nothing for the future of apple trees. Leaders need to pass on knowledge and nurture those who follow and, they must also provide enough space for the innate talents of the next generation of leaders to emerge. If we let go of our fears and allowed or even encouraged change to happen, who knows what we could achieve.
For these reasons I would like to reclaim the image and symbolism of the apple. The apple is known all over the world. It is nourishing and brings well-being to many. It is also a symbol of regeneration. An apple has all that it needs to create new apple trees and many more apples. All we need to do is plant the seeds in good soil, nurture and allow.
I believe that these are also essential qualities of good leadership. At the risk of upsetting the image controllers of the well-known brand –
Think leadership – think apple.