Of Gardening and Leadership


(Bluebells in the woods near my house (c) Shefaly Yogendra)

An old English lady once gave me some capital advice on creating a garden that blooms all year round.

“Go to the local nursery or garden centre once a month”, she said, “and buy whatever is blooming then. Bring it home and plant it. Repeat every month for a year. And the following year, you may be surprised pleasantly at how your garden will bloom when you least expect it. Of course, some plants will die with frost, rain or snow. But many, many more than you expect will survive, and thrive, and do so long term, with just a little upkeep and care.”

In conversations with a media entrepreneur I advise, we have been discussing the care and feeding of our many interests and talents. The gardening advice came back to me, when he asked me recently again how I keep my portfolio alive and kicking.

Each of our interests and talents is like those plants that may be blooming in a given month. Not all will bloom all the time. Some may bloom oftener, longer than others. Some upkeep and care will keep them alive and thriving. Some will die.

And if the portfolio looks not quite “manicured” to some, it is no matter. The point is the portfolio — and the garden — is meaningful for me. I make the meaning. That meaning resonates with my values, my goals, my way of creating value for others.

One could argue this may be good advice for an entrepreneur, who calls the shots in her or his life. I would posit it works well for CEOs and leaders of more complex, larger organisations too.

The principles of trying many different ideas, giving them due consideration, recognising the differences in their growth or fruition trajectories, and making meaning in every act resonate with the values and goals of the organisations that they lead work for those leaders too.

“What about weeds?”, I asked the lady.

“Learn tenacity from them”, she said. “After all some of the prettiest flowers often come from the hardiest weeds!”

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