Vision, the Raison D’Etre of Leadership
Every Spring I plant a garden. It never turns out quite like I expected. The environment in which plants grow and thrive are met with many variables. Sometimes my best efforts become limited by abundance or scarcity of rain, time, health and schedule. Regardless of the outcome, gardening takes vision. The plot needs to be prepared for the plants you will grow. Your garden needs to be tended with love and consistent effort to keep weeds at bay. At the end of the season, if you are planning to do it again, your vision might be modified appropriately.
General Principles of Sowing and Reaping:
Leadership is like a garden. The ground needs to be prepared, seeds need to be sown, plants need to be nurtured and weeds need to be pulled. Sometimes plants need to be staked and most of all, they need to be watered.
Early seeds of leadership take root and sprout where you spend most of your time as a child. For home schooled kids, it is in the home. For kids in school, it is the school environment. Most home schoolers believe in some measure of scheduling. They might try to have their schedules run exactly as the schedule in the regular school system, or they may have a looser structure based on their unique situations. I had the best of both worlds. I was planted in a home of 15 kids, with 12 of us living at home at any given point in time.
When my Mom began teaching her kindergarten-aged kids to bring order out of chaos, the neighbours asked to send their kids too. Thus was born our own kindergarten school. Without some kind of a general schedule and system to guide her daily life, she might have gone to an earlier grave (she died at 73). For the kindergarten to work, she needed to operate within our unique situation and without a rigid schedule.
When I was 6, I went to a Christian Primary school. My Christian education continued into high school. For me, the seeds of order, discipline, structure, team-work, expectations of excellence, respect, diligence, trust, and service were planted and watered at home and at school.
The Home as Garden:
At home, we were all roused from sleep at 6 am for family prayer time. We each had chores to do before going off to school – making trips to the communal water pipe to fill barrels, wash-tubs and buckets with water. That allowed us to have baths before school, and my Mom to have enough water to scrub laundry and cook meals before we returned from school. The process was repeated in the evening to replenish our water supplies. This taught us service, diligence, dependability, discipline and order. We also had to make beds, sweep floors, clear/ wash dishes and get dressed into uniforms pertinent to our different schools. The structure did not run perfectly but that was the general idea.
Dad was the ‘Master Gardener’ who planted Scripture in the garden of our hearts. He expected us to memorize them so that he could use them as the standard of behaviour when we needed rebuke. As in all families, some of us had harder hearts with much more weeds to be pulled. Dad and Mom were relentless in pointing out those weeds that needed uprooting. Weeds of bad habits and slothfulness were uprooted with Dad’s version of Prov. 24:23-24 – “a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and so shall your poverty come upon you as a bandit, and your want as an armed man.”
The School as Garden:
At school, I was blessed by Christian teachers who guided my education. In fact, the die was cast for me to become a teacher from my first day in Primary School. My teacher, Miss Vena (as we fondly called her), was the epitome of the Fruit of The Spirit – kindness, gentleness patience, peace – and who made me feel so loved and special that I thought right away: “When I grow up I want to be just like her”.
We were taught discipline and order, both at the Primary School and at High School; that cleanliness is next to Godliness; that punctuality was important (dependability); that absences needed to be properly dealt with by a written note (accountability); that we should take pride in our printing and keeping books clean and papered with brown paper for protection (stewardship/pride of ownership); that appreciation of poetry and good literature taught heroism, comedy and tragedy; that teamwork was important for Sports Day and School Bazaars; that we could work hard and play hard; that we could experience great joy when the whole school sang in unison; that we were ambassadors of the school while were dressed in its uniform and that we should carry ourselves with a certain decorum as befitting an ambassador.
The Weeding, Pruning and Watering:
Unpredictable life circumstances have a way of throwing the most organized and schedule-oriented parent or teacher off-track. As with gardening, those times when parents or teachers were inconsistent in monitoring our progress, weeds of carelessness, and indiscipline naturally took over and chaos reigned. There was a remarkable growth in lack of respect, grumbling, complaining and defiance of rules by those who would capitalize on weaknesses in teachers and parents alike. Inconsistent rebuke or correction, scarcity of watering with encouragement, less of a supportive and nurturing environment, all conspired to thwart progress until we were all back to the routine and schedule again.
Those who ‘did not follow the multitude to do evil’ were the ones who were most likely to become leaders in the community and experience success. Experience has shown that those who followed well, learnt to lead well. They developed the leadership qualities that others appreciated. Many tenets of Scripture became living values that guided their lives. The principle of sowing and reaping was evident: ‘He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much’ – Luke 16:10
Part 2: Leadership Nuggets From The Garden