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Art of Leadership


By April 18, 2014October 2nd, 20193 Comments

2014.04.17 Peach BlossomsI was walking to work with a staff member the other day, when she mentioned that she loves weeding. I actually love weeding too. There is something very satisfying about mindfully pulling unwanted growth from a small plot of land in order to create space for what I really want growing there.

And while I enjoy the meditative aspects of it, I’m also aware that when I’m weeding, I’m literally uprooting life that wants to emerge. As leaders, we often have to uproot things and make courageous choices about letting go of projects, ideas, organizational habits (and yes, sometimes even people) that are impediments to our work being as strong, vibrant and impactful as we want it to be.

It’s Spring — time to ready our gardens. This is a time of potential, of being between things. We know that the peaches and the plums are on their way — we see their blossoms, but don’t yet know how many will ripen, or how sweet they will be. The geese are building their nests and calling to each other, but it will be awhile before we’ll see goslings down by the lake.

There’s a lot on the horizon for those of us leading toward social transformation: elections, campaigns, and possibilities for community building and policy reform. Let’s take a collective breath and consider:

  1. What do we want to sow now, that will be ready for harvest in six months, a year, or two years?
  2. Are there “weeds” growing in our organizations or movements that aren’t beneficial to the growth of the whole?
  3. What nourishment does our leadership “soil” need, so that today’s effort will have the impact we want and will satisfy us when it’s time to harvest?

I am a gardener at heart. I would love to hear about what you’re weeding and planting this spring in the comments below, or send me an email at akaya AT rockwoodleadership DOT org.

From my heart to yours.

April 2014

Image credit: Peach Blossom via Wikimedia Commons


  • Fran Korte says:

    Love your simple analogies Akaya.
    I also like weeding, but my favorite garden activity is pruning. I often think in terms of the same analogies. Cutting out what’s too crowded or sapping the energy from the important parts of the plant to create graceful form. Nature and I, working together on what is emerging to create beauty.

    On Sunday I planted tiny carrot seeds and prayed for gentle rain to nourish them without disturbing the soil. It came last night. Now they will germinate and I’ll have sweet nourishment in August and September.

  • Tony Novelli says:

    Nice thoughts. Two things came to mind… The first was a quote that I cannot remember the source of: “he who only pulls weeds, ends up with clods.” So thinking of this metaphoricaly,l coupling the planting of intentions balances the sometimes over exercised self critiques weeding can represent. The second was both the humility we learn when we study permaculture from long careful observation of what wants to happen on a site. Then, knowing we still only have partial information, making our best decisions about what to remove, move, add, etc. we refer to this as “beginning well,” and includes careful monitoring of feedback loops and constant adjustment. This is a bit afield of where you began, but it helps me to see these things in nature’s continuum. Happy Earth Day!

  • Akaya says:

    Thanks for your responses! Fran, I’m about to plant my carrots — the planter boxes are ready.
    Tony, I love the idea of “beginning well” what a difference it would make if all projects were to take a minute to pause and reflect on that — I’m aware that how things start often determine how they will end.