Like Gardening

Leadership is elusive…fleeting. In other words, leadership is difficult.

Just when I think I can summarize leadership into a few formulaic bullet points, it proves unwilling to remain stuffed inside the box. Just when I think leadership can be described as Y = Mx + B, it proves unwilling to remain a predictable and sequentially solved equation. Just when I think I can tame leadership to behave responding only on command, it proves unwilling to accept the routine associated with being a Pavlov Dog.

My experience argues that leadership cannot be best characterized or explained by laws, principles, or pillars. No, leadership is too liquid for that. Leadership is too motion for that. Leadership is too pneuma for that.

Leadership is animation: the ongoing honoring of someone else by breathing life and awakening in joint pursuit of more, so that, eventually, they will do the same for and with another.

“Leadership is animation: the ongoing honoring of someone else by breathing life and awakening in joint pursuit of more, so that, eventually, they will do the same for and with another.”

This work of animation requires a consistent focus on the other. Not the kind of focus like a parent sending a child off to college. Do you have gas money? Do you have your class schedule? Did you pack deodorant? Are you coming home next weekend?

Instead, leadership requires the focus of a gardener working in the garden:

▪️ Gritty fingernails with the earth tightly packed underneath

▪️ Stained knees, stiff hands, and a sore back

▪️ Sweat pouring off the forehand and into the ground

▪️ Turning, tilling, sifting, scooping, plucking, pruning, planting, watching, waiting, wondering

This work of animation, this work of creation, this work of enlivening another requires a willingness to lace up lawn mowing shoes, walk out into the air, kneel down into the in-process ground, dig with a variety of tools, and uncover the possibilities that have been there all along.

Will it work? Who knows. Will it be worth it? Who knows. Will it be sustainable? Who knows.

The gardener knows the endeavor is unpredictable. The gardener knows that many elements of the process are outside the grasp of the most textured gardening gloves. The gardner knows that sunshine and rain chuckle at those seeking to control them. The gardner knows that many a moment will be spent watching, waiting, and wondering.

And yet, that’s how I got here.

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