Seeing the trees or the forest is a good indication of the caliber of the person you might be assessing for future positions of authority. Everything exists within something else greater. A tree exists in a forest in the same way as your finger is part of your hand or a feather is part of a bird. The level of thinking is based on how much a person sees in any particular situation. In business this seeing leads to all types of strategic improvements.
The first thing we should understand is that seeing is based in differentiation. Differentiation is the ability to compare and contrast at least two things to better understand them. An experienced eye can see much more than an inexperienced one in the comparison process. This is one of the reasons why more knowledgeable people guide less knowledgeable people to higher forms of understanding.
Two people can look at the same thing and see different things. For example, a manager may focus on their daily functions while an executive focuses more on the bigger picture. When a person can see the trees and understand how they fit within the forest they are able to create better strategic plans.
If a candidate can only see the trees and does not have the systems thinking skills to see the forest they will never make a good executive. The big idea is built from the experience with the small ideas and only a few people will be able to make a leap to connecting the trees together into a system.
It is this systematic thinking that allows a person to manipulate an entire forest to ensure that it works at its optimum. They understand which trees, in what arrangement, make up the foundations of the root system and which trees are expanding that root system. Diseased trees are nursed to health or removed from the system.
Success of organizations requires selecting, recruiting and grooming future managers and executives to positions in which they mentally qualify. Not every manager will make a great executive just in the same way as not every employee should be a manager no matter how well they perform their daily function.