Who is Sam Arthur you ask? He's my favorite character from Robert H. Thompson's book, The Offsite - A Leadership Challenge Fable. I'd like to tell you about Sam, but my leadership challenge is to do so without giving away too much about the book or revealing what we discover about Sam as the story progresses. Suffice it to say that Sam is the gardener, or as he would call himself, "the groundskeeper" at Tucson, Arizona's La Mariposa Resort & Spa - the location of the offsite meeting which brings together hi-powered teams from two competing pharmaceutical companies.
So of all the colorful players featured in the book, why do I like the gardener? Consider for a moment that the author could have given Sam any job at the hotel - manager, bellman, concierge, etc. Sam's the gardener because Thompson offers us a perfect metaphor for leadership. Sam sees to it that the soil is healthy. He makes sure the plants get enough water and sun, and that their environment is free from weeds and pests. The plants are given everything they need to succeed on their own. Sam knows that if he creates the right conditions for growth, his gardens will flourish. One would hardly imagine Sam yelling at the flowers to grow faster or fuller. While that kind of behavior is clearly not Sam's nature, he also understands that it doesn't work. Sam's approach to nurturing his garden is the same approach great leaders use to build and grow successful enterprises.
(Don't get too caught up in being compared to a plant. If most CEOs treated their employees as well as Sam tends to his garden, you shouldn't mind at all.)
But Sam is not simply defined by his job or the associated leadership metaphor. Sam teaches us about jumping to conclusions about the people we meet in all walks of life each and every day. He reminds us of the importance of having real passion for whatever we do because, more than pay, the joy we bring to others should serve as the true reward for our life's work. Sam also redefines the meaning of the word "perfect." Interestingly enough, it's not about perfection at all.
Pick up a copy of The Offsite. Find out how Sam uses the word perfect and discover your own favorite character. There are some great ones, but to me, Sam is...well...perfect.