be a worthy acorn...or maybe a rosebush

“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Early in my career, maybe 12 years in, I was leading a special assignment. Within the 10,000 person organization I had not had that level of responsibility yet so many viewed me as ‘unproven.’ This is a common challenge – we all must start somewhere! I was the least senior person on the management team but was tasked with the leadership role because another manager was impressed with my contribution at one of the many meetings I attended. You never know when your moment is going to click. The vice president of the organization was told that I was to be given the role of leading the effort, even though there were higher-level managers on the team who would be reporting to me for the duration of this special assignment.

To encourage me, the vice president, who loved analogies, offered me the example of the oak tree. He told me how humble little acorns absorb nutrients from the soil, the water and the sun, which enables them to grow into oak trees. He cautioned that not all acorns succeed in becoming mighty oak trees. He told me that for this effort, I was the acorn – absorbing the wisdom (nutrients) from the organization and other leaders and applying it. Given the right conditions, time would tell whether I was a worthy acorn. Through that special assignment I learned to lead through influence rather than position and to listen to other leaders around me. The effort was successful and put me on the path to even greater opportunities.

I carried that concept of the acorn with me throughout the rest of my career. When I retired, I decided to pursue coaching leaders as my new path. Excited to share I posted details of my plan on Linked In. One of my colleagues from my years at Boeing saw that post and reached out. It was my now business partner Susan. She also was launching a coaching business. As we reconnected, we kept saying “Oh I wish we knew then what we know now!” We started to explore the possibility of doing something together since we had always worked well together in the past. In this case, that social media post was the acorn that began sprouting the idea of what became the Seasons Leadership Program.

After they reconnected on social media Debbie came back to Seattle, where she lived and worked for many years, for a visit. Susan invited her over to reconnect with colleagues (pictured above) in May of 2019. Debbie and Susan kept talking and decided to launch the Seasons Leadership program on Sept. 22 – just four months from the gathering in May where the seed was planted!

We realized we were motivated by similar things, especially supporting people in navigating their careers. Now, together, we support a shared vision of transforming lives through exceptional leadership development, coaching and business mentoring. Through planting and nurturing the seeds of leadership in every participant in our program, we honor and encourage each leader's unique essence. We don’t try to shape leaders into an oak tree if they are a noble fir, or a rose bush. Instead, we focus on giving leaders the right conditions to live into their full potential by providing them with insights, learning, best practices, tools and community support.

We designed the program to provide leaders the conditions that were most helpful to our career growth. The program is organized around the rhythm of the four seasons of nature, leveraging the cycles of growth, renewal and transformation. The four acorns: leading self, leading others, leading business and leading community work both independently and together in a balanced approach for wholistic leadership development.

When that vice president I once worked for retired, he wrote me a note and said, “thank you for being such a worthy acorn.” I am proud to have been part of his forest. At Seasons Leadership, Susan and I believe that great potential lies within all of us to grow into a mighty presence, given the right conditions. Our vision is that, in turn, each leader who participates in our program will share what they have learned with others as they plant more seeds and grow their forests of magnificent leadership. We hope you will join us.



Debbie Collard has 30+ years of leadership experience. She served on the National Baldrige Foundation Board of Directors for 15 years, including as the first female Chair of the Board. She is an iPEC- and ICF-Certified Professional Coach and co-author of The Making of a World- Class Organization, a practical guide for leaders to engage employees and increase profitability.

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