Leadership lessons from a Gardener
I was in London recently and there close to Canary Wharf, was a little sanctuary at Westferry Circus. I had arrived two hours early for a business meeting, so I decided to get a fruit juice, sit on the park bench and take some time out in the beautiful sunshine. As I sat there, I watched a gardener tend to the lawn. He initially spent a while getting everything ready. Having looked at the lawn, I couldn’t see that it needed anything doing to it, it looked beautiful, yet he saw something different.
As he started mowing the lawn, you could then see what he was looking to create. The first strip was immaculate. I watched in wonder as I saw this artist at work. Each strip was created with care and attention. I had no idea how long I was sat watching him. What felt like a matter of minutes, had turned into an hour and a half. Eventually, I got up to leave, but I had to go over and ask him how he had created this masterpiece. As soon as he started talking, you can see this man was consumed with his passion, to create a beautiful place for people to enjoy; this was his purpose. He wasn’t selling theories that he had read somewhere - he knew his stuff, but then he had the experience and wisdom of knowing more. He explained the detail of the lawn, the fineness of the grass and the seeds used, he explained the detail of the lawn mower, with its 16 blades and how it differs to those used in domestic settings. He then went on to show me the grass cuttings, explaining that chefs would be proud to be able to cut like this. He knew his stuff and had the wisdom to know the practical aspects of the theory.
What relevance does this little observation have to leadership, management and life? This man wasn’t waiting for instructions, to be told what to do and how to do it. He had a very clear purpose, to provide a beautiful place for people to take time out of their busy lives. He wasn’t just knowledgeable in theories, which he could sell to anyone who came along. He had the hands-on experience to know what worked and what didn’t, to do a fantastic job. He had a passion that allowed him to be totally absorbed in his work, not needing anyone to ‘manage’ him.
So often in life, we miss the detail around us; the ability to turn the theory into practice. We go to work without a purpose, other than to pay the bills. We work in jobs for which we have little passion. We have managers who tell us whether we are doing well, or not, and what else we should be doing. The world of work needs to change, so we attract people with passion to do the jobs they love, with dedication and commitment. You might say this is a pipe dream…but we have all come across these people, the gardeners of the world, who are quietly living out their passion and making the world that much better for the rest of us. They are the people that leave us smiling, because of the service we experience. They are the ones who go above and beyond, because they love what they do. What a way to make a living!
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