Finding a Leadership Lesson in my Garden

2017-1017 Butternut Squash

I have a butternut squash growing between the branches of my big azalea bush in the front yard.

I didn’t plant the butternut, yet one seed somehow survived a year of mulling in the composter with my kitchen scraps, grass clippings, and shredded leaves.

The seeds I intentionally planted saw lackluster performance. A dozen decent tomatoes, a few good sized eggplants. And don’t even get me started on the shriveled pepper plants.  

That squash is the best crop of the year. Big beautiful green leaves. Long heavy tan fruit. The vine is thriving and has taken over both side gardens and half of the front.

I could have pulled the seedling when it first started. I had no plans to grow winter squash. I certainly spent enough time on my hands and knees pulling all sorts of other weed invaders. For some reason, I left that seedling alone to take its chances.

And now I have an unexpected gift–over a dozen good size squash almost ready to harvest. Odd as it may sound, it got me thinking about leadership.

Effective leaders develop a sense for when it is time to nurture the unexpected (and often messy), and when it is time to ‘nip it in the bud.’

So much of our life is highly managed–schedules, meetings, plans, contingencies. Many of the executives I work with feel they can barely find the time to do what is expected, let alone nurture the unexpected. 

Maybe a default response develops in that organization. People learn that new ideas are quickly weeded out. So new ideas are left unplanted.

Maybe there is a feeling of so much complexity and continual change, that doing something to stay the course brings a fleeting moment of control and stability. And an opportunity to take a risk on an unexpected gift is lost.

What unexpected gift is popping up in your life that needs some space to grow? 


Photo credit: JMaliszewski, 2017


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