Sometimes Leadership Is About Planting Seeds, Not Harvesting Them

man walkingRecently I had the opportunity to visit a former place of employment where I had worked for two years in my first managerial position. During my time there, I was tasked with re-vamping a department that had been struggling with performance, productivity, and professionalism.

Although I was only there for two years, I felt like a lot of positive changes were implemented, and results were clearly evident. However, I also left there knowing that so much more needed to be accomplished, and I could only hope that whoever came after me would continue what I had started.

Now, after many years, I was back where it all started. As I walked around, I noticed many changes that had been proposed when I was there years ago. Needless to say, this was a great feeling because it made me realize that all of the planning we had done years ago was not in vain.

Then it hit me—sometimes leadership is about “planting seeds,” not “harvesting them.” What do I mean by this? As a leader of an organization, you have to be comfortable knowing that many of the things you are working on now may not come to fruition during your tenure.

Many of your proposals and ideas may be met with resistance, but that does not mean you should give up on pursuing them.  Think of all the great visions and ideas that have been abandoned because someone gave up.

The lesson here is that leaders must realize their position is temporary, and as result should focus on planting and watering seeds until their time in that position is finished. It’s about stewardship—taking care of what has been entrusted to you and ensuring that you leave the organization in better shape than it was when you arrived.

It also means that someone else might harvest the seeds you planted. Great leaders are very comfortable with this reality because they have a big-picture mindset. They care more about the long-term success and health of the organization than their own accomplishments and recognition.

If more leaders had this perspective, I’m confident that we would see stronger, healthier, and more sustainable organizations as a result.

I encourage you to examine your own perspective and ask yourself, “Am I more concerned about how much I can accomplish than I am about the long-term success of the organization after I am no longer here?”

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