Spring is a great time to be in North Carolina (not that there is a bad time to be in North Carolina, but spring is very good). Flowers bloom, crops grow, and the state’s landscapes come alive.
For me spring also means that the vegetable garden has to be planted. When I was a little boy, I walked alongside my dad in the garden and watched him prepare the soil and plant the seeds. Since then, I have carried on this tradition, and while my garden will never match his, it brings back many great memories at this time of year. I expect many of you can relate to this story.
In thinking about leadership development, I believe there are some great fundamental lessons that can be brought from the vegetable garden to the leadership journey. Good gardeners know that soil preparation, seed and plant selection, watering, fertilization and a little bit of luck are just a few of the key things you need to have a great garden. With this in mind, I thought I would share a few thoughts to hopefully stimulate some leadership development ideas for you:
1. Preparation of the Soil is critical for a successful garden. Just as tilling the soil is critical for vegetable gardening, we must prepare our life for leadership development. Are we setting aside time for reflection, reading and learning? Are we dedicating ourselves to identifying those areas that we need to grow in to be more effective personally or professionally? Is the soil of our soul (mentally and emotionally) ready for some leadership development?
2. Seed and Plant Selection is vital to the gardener as this determines what will grow in the garden (squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, corn, and so on). In leadership, the same holds true. If you want to grow in your leadership skills related to communication, team building, influence, etc., you have to be an avid learner and practice leadership. You will not become a better leader if you don’t plant the right seeds and make the necessary adjustments to improve.
3. Water/Fertilization are essential for plant growth. In leadership, having an environment made up of people and opportunities that encourage your leadership development is a must. No one becomes a better leader alone, and everyone must have help along the way. Bringing together the right water and nutrients that support plant growth results in high quality plants and vegetables. Bringing together the right support network of friends, role models and mentors can make you a better leader. They can push you, point out areas that you need to work on and encourage you on your leadership journey.
4. Weeding is probably the least favorite part of gardening for most people. Just as we weed a garden, we must also remove those habits, behaviors, environments and possibly people from our lives that are holding us back. Leadership is a journey, and weeds in the journey can and will choke out your ability to grow and produce as a leader. Weeding means we set goals, priorities and benchmarks to track our progress and growth.
There are many other variables that I could use from the vegetable garden to highlight the leadership journey. But I think you get the idea. If you want a great garden, you have to work at it. If you want to be a great leader, you have to work at it. Leadership is not accidental. It is intentional and purposeful.
Best wishes as you tend your leadership garden as springtime reminds us that it’s leadership time!