Sam Arthur, The Perfect Character

Last week, I posted at my blog Client Service Insights (CSI) for the last time in favor of becoming a regular contributor here.  I’ll post primarily about leadership and communication, and I look forward to your comments.  I’d like to get started by talking about Sam Arthur.

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.

Category: Leadership

Tags:  , , ,

About the Author: Leo Bottary

Leo J. Bottary is an adjunct professor for two of Seton Hall University's graduate level programs in strategic communication and leadership.  Leo has enjoyed a 25-year career counseling leaders in the areas of strategic comm…

Learn More

  1. Leo–
    I love the metaphor of a CEO acting as a gardener, tending to his plants. I think too often we DO get caught up in the definition of success and forget to bring the passion to work each day. Thank you for the reminder.

  2. Thanks for your comment Lois! It’s hard to argue the point that if you provide people with the right environment, they’ll grow. I think it also speaks to being at the right organization as well. Not every plant will grow everywhere, regardless of how much care it receives.

  3. Valuable info. Lucky me I found your site by accident, I bookmarked it.

  4. Greg Megowan

    July 26, 2010 at 4:46 pm


    I agree that Sam the gardner is an excellent metaphor for leadership. It all starts with planting the right plants, and making sure they get all they need to develop fully. As leaders, we all need to make sure that we don’t allow all of the daily minutiae to divert our attention from what is really important.

  5. Thanks for the comments and the bookmark!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *