How To Lead Like A Gardener — 7 Principles For Sustainable Leadership

As a business owner, leader, or manager, you understand that sustainable leadership is the key to success. You need to be able to lead your team through good times and bad without burning out or causing too much collateral damage.

That’s where the principles of sustainable leadership come in. In this article, we will discuss 7 ways that you can lead like a gardener and create a sustainable environment for your team!

The Challenge with Unsustainable Leadership

Sustainability can mean many things, ranging from environmental conservation to ethical business practices. But in leadership, it refers to the ability to create long-lasting success for both individuals and organizations.

Unfortunately, we still witness leadership styles that prioritize short-term gains over long-term progress and policies that are negatively affecting both people and organizations.

We can see the negative effects of unsustainable leadership in everything from leadership challenges, employee turnovers, and declines in company performance. On an individual level, unsustainable leadership can lead to burnout, decreased job satisfaction, and a lack of purpose or meaning in work.

To combat this trend, leaders must prioritize sustainability in their decision-making and focus on creating positive, lasting change for all stakeholders involved. Only then can we truly achieve success in leadership.

I discovered the term “lead like a gardener” while reading a book, Team of Teams, by retired U.S. General Stanley McChrystal. In it, he stated that:

“The gardener cannot actually ‘grow’ tomatoes, squash, or beans – she can only foster an environment in which the plants do so.”

This refers to the idea that leaders must help others grow and succeed. If you want to lead like a gardener, I’ve prepared a list of 7 principles which will help you create a lasting change in your team and the organization.

7 Principles for Sustainable Leadership

Principle #1 Prepare the Soil

The first step to take if you want to lead like a gardener is to prepare the soil. This means creating the right conditions for your team members to thrive – reducing stress, fostering positive relationships, and providing support and resources.

Without this groundwork laid out, it becomes much harder for individuals to flourish and reach their potential. As a leader, the first step in leading like a gardener is to assess and intentionally cultivate the environment in which your team operates. Only then can you truly begin to nurture their growth.

Principle #2 Get Your Hands Dirty

As a gardener, you cannot expect plants to grow and flourish simply by standing back and giving them instructions. The same principles apply to leadership – being a successful leader means rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty.

True leadership involves actively guiding and coaching your team, not just delegating tasks and giving orders. You have to put in the effort, just as a gardener does through digging, watering, and feeding their plants.

Efforts may also include strategic planning and analysis, but the bottom line is that leadership requires active participation rather than passive observation. Just like gardening, successful leadership requires hard work and dedication in order to see positive results.

Principle #3 Nurture Your Team

As a leader, it is important to remember that your team members are not just resources or tools to be used for completing tasks. They are individuals with their own hopes, dreams, and aspirations.

It is the responsibility of leaders to provide their teams with the resources and support necessary for growth and development. This means taking the time to provide adequate training, offering support when needed, and providing opportunities for employees to expand their skill set and progress in their careers.

Neglecting these responsibilities can cause lowered morale and productivity among team members. Just as a gardener regularly tends to their plants, a leader should never neglect their team’s needs and should always strive to help them thrive. After all, a successful leader isn’t measured by finishing tasks alone – it’s about fostering success in every member of the team.

Principle #4 Be Patient

As a gardener knows, it takes time for a seed to sprout, a sapling to grow, and a mature plant to reach its full potential. The same is true in leadership – it takes time for individuals and teams to develop the skills and experience necessary for success.

Impatience in leadership can lead to hasty decision-making and ineffective strategies. Instead, a successful leader must exercise patience while guiding their team towards growth and development. This may mean providing consistent guidance, coaching, and feedback over time, rather than expecting immediate results.

In the long run, patience as a leader will result in a well-rounded, high-performing team prepared to tackle any challenge.

Principle #5 Prune Away What Isn't Working

As a leader, it is important to constantly assess and evaluate all aspects of the organization in order to ensure efficient use of resources. Just as a gardener prunes away dead leaves and branches to allow the plant to focus its energy on what is working, a leader should also eliminate or change anything that is not contributing positively towards achieving goals.

This could be an inefficient process, a task that isn’t aligned with the company’s objectives, or even a team member who may be negatively affecting the team. Taking swift action allows for the team’s time and energy to be focused on what will bring success.

Pruning may seem harsh at first, but it ultimately helps the organization flourish and thrive in the long run. Reflecting on and addressing areas for improvement shows strong leadership and dedication to move forward.

Principle #6 Be Flexible and Adaptable

A successful gardener understands that not every plant always has the same needs. The amount of sunlight and water required may fluctuate with the seasons, and tending to them accordingly is crucial for their health and growth.

Similarly, in leadership, it is important to recognize that teams can undergo changes and therefore have different needs. A successful leader must be flexible and adapt their approach in order to meet those changing needs.

This could involve providing additional support or resources during challenging periods, or shifting roles and responsibilities as team members develop additional skill sets. Just as a gardener adjusts their care for each individual plant, a leader must consider the unique requirements of each member of their team. By being flexible and adaptable, they can nurture growth and ultimately achieve goals more effectively.

Principle #7 Be Mindful of Your Impact

A gardener carefully monitors their plants’ environments and takes steps to ensure they thrive. A leader must also know their impact on their team and make efforts to cultivate a positive and productive work atmosphere.

This means being conscious of how decisions and actions can affect morale and motivation levels, and taking steps to address any issues that may arise. It also means providing support for personal and professional growth, as well as facilitating open communication within the group.

Just as a gardener knows that their care will ultimately determine the health of their plants, a leader should remember that the way they lead can have a significant impact on the success of their team. Ultimately, taking care not to damage relationships or hinder productivity is key to effective leadership.

Start Leading Like a Gardener

While leadership styles may vary, all effective leaders share some common characteristics. One of the most important being the ability to create and maintain a positive team environment.

Just as a gardener must provide the right conditions for their plants to grow, a leader must do the same for their team. By providing support, opportunities for growth, and maintaining open communication, a leader can help their team to thrive.

You can help your team thrive by the article below next. In it, you will learn how to make your people feel like they’re part of an amazing community and that you care about them.

Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this article, which means if you make a purchase after clicking on one, I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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John Todorovic

John Todorovic

I help aspiring and existing leaders improve their skills through effective coaching.

As a restless knowledge seeker, I love acquiring new knowledge on a daily basis through various types of research techniques. All this aligns with my life's mission: sharing knowledge is a privilege and an obligation.

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