Leaders as Gardeners
“More things happen by accident when the culture is conducive than ever happen by design when it is not.”

This statement, which I heard recently at a conference, got me thinking about the role of leadership in shaping and maintaining culture and with this in mind the concept of 'leaders as gardeners'.

I remember recently describing some leaders I know as gardeners. This description was intended to convey the idea that these leaders are more concerned with maintaining the right environmental conditions for people to grow organically than they are with designing and preserving the right organisation so that everything looks right structurally. The environmental conditions I’m talking about could equally be described as culture, or the values that in turn shape culture. I have come to see culture and values as probably the most significant determining factors of any community or business.

But for now back to the garden. In the 21st century western world in which I live I think it’s fair to say I have lost touch with my agrarian roots – mowing the lawn is my only contribution to the garden and only because artificial grass is too expensive! This lack of connection to the field and the garden has many implications on my world view and potentially my leadership style so in this post I’ve set out to reconnect with my roots (no pun intended!) and in the process advocate a more green fingered approach to leadership.

In no particular order here are some of my initial thoughts:

• Growth takes time.

• You grow what you sow.

• You don’t sow the finished article you sow the seed.

• Seeds don’t look anything like the finished article.

• If you constantly dig up the seed you’ve sown to see how it’s doing it will die.

• Most seeds start growing out of sight.

• Not everything grows at the same rate.

• Don’t plant things too close together.

• Growth often requires re-potting.

• Different plants thrive in different conditions.

• If the environment is good for seeds it’s probably good for weeds.

• However good the seed if the environmental conditions aren’t right whatever you sow won’t grow.

• Roots are important.

• Life is seasonal.

• Healthy growth is often encouraged through pruning.

By no means an exhaustive list. I plan to expand on these points in the next few posts.

Mark Lawrence is a leadership and culture consultant