Leadership / Growing / Leader Development

The Dandelion Leader

Learning from a weed (not learning from weed!)

Mark McMillion
4 min readNov 29, 2023

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Photos courtesy of Dongsu Kim, CC BY 3.0 and AmirahBreen, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Like many homeowners, I’m engaged in perpetual battle for my yard with Taraxacum officinale aka The Lion’s Tooth (from the French dent-de-lion) aka the common dandelion. The only common thing about a dandelion is its ubiquity. Its omniscience is amazing and because of that, I especially like the French-derived name of The Lion’s Tooth. Dandelions are more than tough enough to have earned that moniker.

That name comes from the shape of its leaves but I prefer to think of it as reflective of the plant’s fortitude, tenacity, and just plain toughness. If regular lions aren’t like that, then they ought to be. Work on that, lions.

A quick scan of Wikipedia tells you some amazing things about the plant. Dandelions grow on six continents and the entire thing is edible. Good source of vitamins A, C, and K as well as minerals (calcium, potassium, iron, and manganese). Nearly every culture has incorporated them into food. I’ve eaten them in salads and my mother made dandelion wine once upon a time. She said it was awful but that may reflect her skills as a winemaker as much as the plant. It was her only effort in that arena. The rest of her kitchen skills are beyond compare.

Dandelions aren’t like roses or hastas or lilies — they grow themselves. They don’t need careful nurturing, pruning, fertilization, watering, soil preparation, or anything else. Heck, they don’t even need dirt as I’ve picked them out of gravel where the roots pulled right up.

They flourish in whatever environment they find themselves. A crack in the concrete, a heavily graveled road, even in a yard treated with chemicals to kill them!

Fortitude

All of these traits are what make them superb role models for leaders. Like dandelions, leaders must be tough. They have to be able to take a licking and keep on ticking. Mental toughness is necessary in any leadership role. Why? Because stuff goes wrong. Adversity happens and you have to deal with it and overcome it. Tough people do that. That’s fortitude.

Tenacity

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Mark McMillion

Retired Army officer with two tours in Baghdad, married with four kids. Proud West Virginian and West Point grad. Works available on Amazon.