What a Garden Taught Me About Leadership

“One is too small a number to achieve greatness.”¹ It’s so easy to want to do it all with the excuse that nobody does it better. It’s easy to take credit and get a few ego credit boosts. It’s easy to attach your identity with your work and what you’ve accomplished. But eventually easy becomes hard. Hard work that turns into being let down by others who don’t put in the same amount of effort as you. All along you find yourself missing the point of it all.

Sometimes it’s in the motives where all of our work gets lost. They get lost in not thinking and a lack of intention. It appears small, but is the difference between succeeding and failing. When I was working at Oklahoma Methodist Manor at a house called Buehler we started a garden. It was a long-term care unit for elders who needed help with things like bathing, getting dressed, and other activities many of us take for granted. Now the idea of a garden is not new or unique. In fact one at a nursing home is not even that unique. What was unique is what we did with it. I asked all the elders what they would like to plant.  They could choose a flower or a vegetable. What happened next not only changed the elders, but changed me.

I heard the most wonderful stories about their memories related with gardens. One elderly woman wanted to plant nasturtiums, because it reminded her of her Mom giving her her own garden to plant. Her mother was really just trying to keep her busy five-year old out of the garden. Another had an entire backyard of flowers that attracted birds at her previous home. She and her husband, who she was often looking for even though he had already passed,  would spend time sitting in the garden watching the birds at their old home. A third wanted to plant tomatoes. She (being one of my favorites) was always so excited to be involved, and was looking forward to transferring her plant from the jiffy pots to the outside garden boxes that were built for the project. So excited that she invited her daughter to join her and bundled up on an unusually cold day in May to transfer the pot into the soil. She hated the cold.

Seeing them all full of life over growing life in that small little garden on the second floor helped me see that it was never about a garden. It was always about the community, the stories, and the people. A week later, my friend who planted the tomato plant passed away. My heart was broken. As a gesture of love and gratitude for having known her, I gave her daughter the tomato plant nestled in a clay pot. In bringing together the small little community of about 14 elders, I was changed. I saw the power of “together”.

“What opportunities do you see? Do you see a way to connect others to significance? Or is someone inviting you to join him or her in doing something significant? If you see it, seize it. What you say yes to shapes your life. Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step in your life.”³

Sometimes, our motives and our vision can shape others and our lives get changed in the process. With the garden it was never really about gardening, but about community. With this blog, it’s not about reading a book a week, but creating a community where leaders can learn, grow, connect, and flourish. I am looking forward to what lies ahead and cherishing my time today with you, because like that garden I know what it will bring.

This past week we were reading John C. Maxwell’s Intentional Living and this week we’ll read Zig Ziglar’s Born to Win. I’m looking for others who are also interested in raising their level of leadership authority along with others. It’s a movement that I feel urgently needs to be addressed and my wish is for it to live long past myself. Won’t you join me? SUBSCRIBE HERE

“If you want to make a difference with people, you just need to find like-minded people who share common goals for doing something significant. You just need to want to make a difference together and then do it!”²

Sarah Jackson

Vigilant Poster Girl

Today’s Bonus: Carly Fiorina’s Leadership podcast on how she is intentional with her most important decision, her time.


  1. Intentional Living by John C. Maxwell Pg 159
  2. Intentional Living by John C. Maxwell Pg 168
  3. Intentional Living by John C. Maxwell Pg 166

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