Watching a seed sprout up from my garden infused with the bright hue of newness draws my attention to the incubation of my leadership philosophy and practice planted in my heart by my grandfather as he led me to his garden when I was very young.
Grandpa would take me to the tomato plants and show me how to carefully pluck the “suckers” out, explaining that they take the nutrients that were meant to grow the tomato flower into a beautiful ripe tomato. He told me that taking care of these plants had to be done daily, sometimes twice a day. He likened the attention to his plants to that of tending to loved ones. With his native Italian accent, he declared, “Linta, you must treat your garden and your tomato plants like family; nurture them and they will grow into beautiful fruits.” A master plasterer by day, alive and shining in the sunshine of his garden on a Sunday afternoon – he became in that moment more than Grandpa – from that day forward also a gentle teacher, mentor and servant- leader.
Our extended family often joked Grandpa about the formal attire he would wear when tending his garden, always dressed in a white shirt, clean shaven, with dress pants and black shoes, standing proudly among tomato plants, sprigs of lettuce, cucumbers and squash. He tended his garden as he served his God – with respect, attention and love. Little did he or I know how his lesson would last in me and find its application to my life and growth as a leader. Knowing the back story on a red, ripe tomato from Grandpa’s garden has given me insight into the awesome responsibility of leadership which, in the simplist and perhaps most defining sense is the responsibility to help people grow. It requires constant care, removal of obstacles that impede growth and loving service – ripe leadership.
I invite you to add your own inspiration from the simple things we sometimes take for granted that have formed lasting lessons on the path of your growth as a leader. Sometimes the back story lasts a lifetime…