10 Leadership Lessons From Gardening

Paul LaRue
4 min readMay 28, 2019


It’s Memorial Day in northern New England. This means it’s time to finally start planting our gardens.

I was reminded of this visiting a local farm stand/ They had a large chalkboard sign reminded the locals to not plant until after the holiday weekend.

Despite people’s claims to the contrary, it’s not recommended to start planting when the warmer weather arrives in March/April after the spring thaw. Because we’re notoriously known for frost snaps (and snow) through May, as evidenced by the near-record breaking lows during the week prior.

Gardening is a meticulous work but the rewards are fruitful and greatly multiply our efforts if we follow some simple guidelines. Leaders can likewise take these guidelines to help them be more effective in cultivating a great culture and impact in their organizations.

  • Wait for fertile ground. Just like ground that’s not quite thawed, we can force culture and change on people when the time is not right. It will frustrate not only us but our teams as well. Sometimes waiting for the proper time to start is the best course of action rather than rushing and forcing the process.
  • Work the ground until it’s ready to plant. Sometimes people need to be prepared before they are ready to be receptive to what you want to initiate. Discussions, talking culture, bringing them in for strategic meetings and other methods can get your people to be ready for the process of reaching the goals laid forth.
  • Establish the boundaries. Good boundaries are necessary not only for keeping behavior aligned, but like the fence around a garden, keeping destructive creatures from ruining the work. Make sure you comply as well to those boundaries and ensure they are fair and allow for growth without restricting it.
  • Plant seeds. A vision can’t germinate without being given up to the soil. Sometimes it needs to be scattered, other times a careful planting of the vision is the best to allow the seed of change to take root.
  • Water. Plants need nourishment, and so do your people. By praising, keeping culture and vision out in front, and leading by a positive example, you can great the right environment for your staff to sprout towards attaining the goal ahead.
  • Weed. Removing the growth that chokes out the nutrients of the plants is necessary for gardeners to ensure their crops stay vibrant. Likewise, removing toxic people (including leaders and best employees) and counter-productive systems allows your people to grow without hindrance.
  • Be patient. Some crops take time to sprout above ground. A patient leader will know that despite outward performance, an employee can be growing by leaps and bounds inside (below the soil). Some people are slow learners who eventually grow quickly. Having patience and knowing your people well enough to understand what is happening within them with the right nutrients and environment is key to getting the most out of them.
  • Expect variations. Not every corn stalk will be a certain height. Some zucchini plants will grow beyond their rows. But they produce the desires effect nonetheless. Once your people produce, don’t try to box in their production or growth. Different people will yield varying results, so keep in mind that not everyone will contribute the way you want. Allow for variations as long as they are being fruitful.
  • Enjoy Harvest. When the goal is met, take time to enjoy and celebrate your teams accomplishments with them. Allow them to share the fruits of the labor they have created.
  • Plan for next season. A gardener starts planning for the next crop the day after harvest. They pre-prepare the soil and ensure the ground will endure a winter and spring thaw. Allow your people to rest and reset, rotate the growth opportunities and cast another vision while keeping your culture aligned. This will allow your organization to grow even more following your recent success.

People are living organisms that need light, nurturing, environment and protection in order for them to properly grow. By seeing the basic principles of gardening and applying them to your leadership, we can expect a multiplied outcome of fruitfulness as well.

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© 2019 Paul LaRue (The UPwards Leader). All rights reserved

(image: pixabay)



Paul LaRue

Mentor, author, consultant — inspiring and teaching people to look and grow UPward!