Written by Kathy Fauble, M.Ed., Director, Professional Education Services

A couple weekends ago, I spent some time working on my flower gardens, fertilizing the pots, deadheading flowers, and pulling weeds from the beds. Yes, it was getting late in the season, and I could have just let nature take its course, but I’ve found giving a little TLC keeps everything looking good through the fall. I’ve always loved gardening. People say it’s a great stress reliever, and that’s probably true. A former hospital CEO lived across the street from me years ago, and he had the biggest garden I’ve ever seen! But what I like is the challenge of making everything grow, and that requires some committed work: watering, fertilizing, tending the soil, and sometimes getting rid of what doesn’t work.

Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, saw the connection between gardening and leadership. “My main job was developing talent,” he said. “I was a gardener providing water and other nourishment to our top 750 people. Of course, I had to pull out some weeds, too.”

There are many different leadership models, and I don’t know if there is a gardening leadership model, but I like the gardening analogy because it recognizes that everything needs to be tended to differently and that you must be ready to adapt to changing conditions. Some of my flowers need sun, others shade, some require daily watering, and others just once a week. I know that because I pay attention and watch for signs of stress. I try to give my garden what it needs when it needs it.

Jack Welch phrased it another way, “The day you become a leader, it becomes about them. Your job is to walk around with a can of water in one hand and a can of fertilizer in the other hand. Think of your team as seeds and try to build a garden. It’s about building these people. Only you will know the team.”

True, people aren’t plants, but what I think the comparison really shows is the importance of having the right environment for your teams to grow and thrive. It acknowledges that sometimes you must pull some weeds, but you’ll have a beautiful garden as a result.

A final Jack Welch quote, “Great leaders love to see people grow. The day you are afraid of them being better than you is the day you fail as a leader.”

Wishing you a great week and beautiful flowers in every season.