Rooted in Gratitude: Aspen-Inspired Leadership Strategy for Success

Rooted in Gratitude: Aspen-Inspired Leadership Strategy for Success

I often find inspiration for leadership strategy in unexpected places. One such source is in my own backyard – our Quaking Aspen Grove. 

Quaking Aspens have a striking appearance and remarkable resilience. They are first to break forth with green in the spring, and the last to lose their brilliant colors in the fall. What can we learn from them? What wellspring of leadership wisdom might we find in studying them?

Discover a Tree Analogy to Inspire Leadership Development Strategies

In the Gratitude Series, we discuss three leadership strategies to build strong and resilient leaders. By tapping into the power of gratitude when coaching your Next-Gen leader, they will:

  • Grow a can-do mindset; 
  • Cultivate authentic confidence with a growth mindset; and, 
  • Nurture strong connections.

To refresh myself on the science behind gratitude, I revisited the work of Caroline Leaf. She is a cognitive neuroscientist and author that I referred to in Millennials Matter.  She’s known for her groundbreaking insights into the human brain. In her book, Switch on Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health, she introduces the concept of the “brain tree.” This metaphor illustrates important truths. 

  • A constant focus on the negative kills the branches and leaves of our brain tree. This negative focus impacts us in many ways. We get stuck in this negative rut, unable to move forward. It also has a destructive effect on our physical and mental well-being. 
  • Contrary, a grateful mindset creates new neural pathways, fostering personal growth and well-being. Just like a tree can sprout new branches and leaves, our brains can do the same. New neural pathways enable us to move forward. To see the opportunities hiding behind challenges. To find creative solutions for seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Leaf’s work resonates deeply with me. It sparks my curiosity about the Quaking Aspen. Could these magnificent trees hold valuable leadership lessons? 

My First Quaking Aspen Leadership Influence Discovery

Let’s look at the name…why are they called “quaking” Aspens?

Scientists say that a small physical characteristic causes this trembling of Aspen leaves. Aspen leaves have a distinctive flattened petiole. Many other tree species with rounded petioles. These flattened petioles are more sensitive to the slightest air movements.

The result is a unique visual effect: when the wind blows, the Aspen leaves shake, tremble, or “quake,” giving the tree its name. To experience this quivering motion in a grove of Aspen trees is quite mesmerizing. 

This was my first Quaking Aspen Leadership discovery. Even the smallest moves can create ripples of influence in the world of leadership.

We often believe that we need big platforms to spread our message. We think we need to do big things to make a difference. The truth is, those micro-moves that I discuss in my Ted-X talk, can create meaningful change in your Next-Gen leader’s life. (You can watch the talk here.)

And then, of course, Quaking Aspen trees are our fall celebrities. Their vibrant fall colors, a brilliant spectacle of reds, oranges, and golds, never fail to draw tourists from near and far. As the leaves shimmer and “quake” the groves captivate everyone who visits. 

So, my first Quaking Aspen Wisdom is: Even the smallest moves can create ripples of influence in the world of leadership

As I delved deeper into the world of the Quaking Aspen, here are some other leadership lessons I discovered. 

Can-Do Mindset:  The Leadership Strategy  of Sprouting New Roots, even in Adversity

Quaking Aspens have a unique ability to sprout new growth from their roots. They can do this even after facing devastating forces like wildfires and avalanches. The tree may be destroyed, but a layer of soil protects its roots, ensuring that new life emerges. This exceptional survival mechanism illustrates a valuable lesson – the power of a Can-Do Mindset.

Much like the Aspen’s protected root system, a Can-Do Mindset shields during challenging times. It empowers us to persevere through adversity. Negative events can be catalysts for improved leadership performance. When life’s wildfires rage or avalanches of obstacles block their path, it is their Can-Do Mindset that keeps them resilient and moving forward. See also my Courage series article that talks about Negative Preparation. (You can read the article HERE.

Confidence:  The Leadership Influence of a Growth Mindset, even in Winter 

Quaking Aspens stands out in another aspect. During winter, they continue to produce energy-rich sugars. They are working even when other deciduous trees are mostly dormant. This relentless energy production symbolizes how cultivating a growth mindset helps us navigate difficult seasons. Only authentic confidence has the guts to continue growing during these seasons. 

We all encounter winter seasons in our leadership journey. It may seem as if we are not making progress. The Quaking Aspen teaches us that even these seemingly dormant periods, can be productive. We can be active and strategic in preparing for our next season. Envision a spring season where new life will spring forth. Authentic confidence ensures that we never stop learning. We can keep growing even when we have obstacles in our path.

Connections: The Leadership Power of Interconnected Roots

Many see individual trees when surveying a Quaking Aspen grove. This is wrong. All the roots are interconnected. The grove is a single, interconnected organism sharing the same root system. We talk more about this remarkable interconnectedness in the Gratitude series.

These trees grow close together. Their roots form a vast network beneath the surface. This unity enables them to withstand strong winds as a group, ensuring their collective strength. Leadership, too, thrives on interconnectedness.

The Quaking Aspen grove grows stronger together. Leaders get to cultivate meaningful connections among their team members. This creates a culture where everyone can flourish. In an interconnected environment, the individual’s strength contributes to collective success. This flies in the face of a me-me-me culture (Expressive Individualism). We get to invite Next Gen leaders into a we-we-we world. Your company becomes more resilient in the face of challenges. Leadership is not a solitary endeavor; it’s a collaborative journey.

Create a Lasting Leadership Legacy

In your leadership development journey, the lessons from the magnificent Quaking Aspen can serve as a guiding light:

  • Grow a can-do mindset; 
  • Cultivate authentic confidence with a growth mindset; and, 
  • Nurture strong connection.

 These leadership strategies are powerful tools to unlock their full potential as leaders. 

While individual trunks may not live for centuries, the Quaking Aspen’s root system can endure for thousands of years. I hope that the Leadership Lessons of the Quaking Aspen will inspire you to create a leadership legacy that will make a lasting impact on the lives of many.

Your leadership matters, now more than ever.

For more insights on the connection between gratitude and leadership, stay tuned for the full series. Together, we’ll uncover more valuable tools to expand your leadership influence.

Need fresh insights for your next podcast series?

Let’s discuss a tailor-made interview to meet your audience’s needs.

Virtual speaking event? No problem!

Check out my Speaker page HERE.

To schedule, a call contact me at

No Comments

Post A Comment