It’s Memorial Day weekend and my wife and I have been assuming the role of gardeners. Our annual ritual includes traveling to Lancaster County to buy flowers, then spending the rest of the weekend getting them into the ground and protecting their new home with a layer of mulch.
I’m happy to report the beds are filled with vibrant color and a variety of wooden and metal ornaments that accent the presentation. Each year we experiment with some new varieties of flowers and replace any perennials that were lost over the winter.
Leaders and gardeners actually share some things in common.
- Gardeners are always negotiating with nature for just the right blend of warm sunshine and gentle rains so the seeds we sow, or flowers we plant, will thrive. Being an effective leader is also a matter of timing and requires a proper mix of teaching, mentoring, constructive feedback, and meaningful praise. Those we mentor won’t grow if we neglect to invest in their personal development or fail to encourage them when the opportunity is right.
- Gardeners get their hands dirty – grit underneath the fingernails grubby. Even when wearing gloves, it’s hard to avoid the stains that come from working with the moist, brown soil. Leaders who are developing other leaders must have a personal stake in the outcome. When a mentee or protégé disappoints, sometimes the blame rests squarely with us. Our reputations may be blemished but it’s a risk we must take to help others succeed.
- Gardeners know that every plant is different. Some flowers can thrive in full sun while others need the protective canopy of shade. The amount of moisture, space needed to grow, and level of pruning differs with each variety. Effective leaders understand the personal development needs of those they mentor. Some seek space to be creative; others require privacy to analyze and prepare. Many do well with minimum coaching or direction; others crave praise or attention.
The flowers planted this weekend will take root and be transformed into beautiful palettes of luminosity and fragrance. Any memories of current aches and pains will be replaced with pride and amazement as we enjoy God’s bountiful handiwork.
A leader’s investment in people also has its rewards.
Future managers, senior executives, even owners can all be grown from within an organization. Leaders who are serious about their role as gardeners will eventually enjoy the rewards of a well-placed and well-paced investment in their brightest and best.
Photo Credit: istockphoto.com