To go on ahead and to take first place, is the root meaning of the verb to lead. If you’re at the derby, and your horse is in the lead, you are winning! But when it comes to the leadership of people, if we are not careful, we may turn around one fine day and see that few are following.
I have a big honking heart for people. It’s the reason I’m so passionate about leadership. I have experienced the shriveling of manipulative authority and I have also encountered the flourishing from healthy influence. One leads to burden, the other to freedom. The biggest contrast of the two: inspection.
The inspection is the taste test. The inspection is what rules out neglect and ignorance.
We have a garden that surrounds our home. We did not plant it, we did not plan it – but here we are, blessed beyond measure to be in this house and watching diverse plants and flowers sprout up, without any assistance from us. They were planted and we have acknowledged that for this season in our life, we are their caretakers.
The aroma is intoxicating. So many magnificent blooms and wide variety of foliage that some days I feel a bit unworthy of its stewardship.Yet, I believe that all things placed before us, especially people, are gifts; and we honor the giver by doing our best to care for them properly, according to their specific needs.
On the weekdays, my husband Michael and I take a regular and consistent walk-about around our little oasis. In the early morning we slip on robes and take our coffee; in the late evening we hold hands, and if we are home at any time during the day we will take loving glances at the beauty before us.
We find the diversity most attractive. It reminds us that varied personalities and expressions absolutely can co-exist, and thrive! Sizes, shapes, colors and cycles – each member unique unto itself. Except for the weeds – weeds actually mimic a nearby plant or flower – in hopes of sticking around long enough to rob its neighbor of vital nutrients.
When we take our walk-about, we are inspecting. We are looking to see who is over-watered, who is under-watered, who needs pruning. We are investigating who needs more space and sun, who needs more shade or support. We look deep. We inspect limbs, leaves and soil. We search for weeds and we pull them. We are caretakers.
If all we wanted was a pristine presentation, we would hire a professional gardener. We truly enjoy the process; it is meaningful to us. We learn things about our-self, about people and learn how to better care for all things placed before us.
After our walk we share with each other what we saw and heard and then we assess our weekend labors of love. We set aside the time, gather our tools, and take care of each need. We respond. To observe without taking appropriate action is simply irresponsible, and careless leaders will soon find a wilting, sparse and dried up community.
I find it wonderful to watch the once ruling hierarchy leadership, a “set man” and his chums leading from the top (them) down to the bottom (you), now dismantling and crumbling – falling down, down, down. Down to the ground – where it belongs – there in the soil serving the needs of its organizational ecosystem.
You see, leadership is the gardener and the plant and flower life is the fruit of its labor. The gardener is not the rose bloom on display, not the waving fern, nor the budding peonies. The gardener is the caretaker of those that are planted around him. They lead from the sidelines, cheering on the struggling Daisy and the burgeoning Hosta.
Yeah, I know this goes against our current celebrity culture. It’s everywhere: business, entrepreneurship, media – it’s even wormed its way into the church. But there is hope. If we commit to taking the time to identify what is not working (for our people), and if we are willing to listen to those who are brave enough to tell us that it’s not working, then the walk-about is already underway.
That’s good gardening.