"We sowed seeds of change, of which we might never see the fruit." – Michelle Obama, "Becoming"
You have probably heard the old adage, "We reap what we sow"? Good or bad, we may never know the result of our efforts.
Every step of the process is critical and deserves attention. It will therefore be a series in several parts using the framework of the leadership environment and an analogy of agriculture. This is the last installment of our series (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3).
Then the farmer prepared the land and sowed the seeds. You might think it's up to the seed to do the rest. The trip is just beginning. Without the help of the farmer and the help of Mother Nature, a seed could never be harvested. Without water, a plant can shrivel up and die. Without proper nutrients, the plant can neither grow nor produce. Without proper control of weeds or pests, the plant can be smothered, become sick and / or die. The farmer must actively participate in seed growth and maturity and protect it as needed.
Like farmers, leaders actively participate in the development of their population. They have a duty to ensure that their citizens are prepared for the future. Leaders monitor development progress and provide assistance as needed. They do not focus on one person; they ensure that all live and work in environments that are conducive to their development.
Each person knows that she is ultimately responsible for herself, but leaders support their people and let them know that they are there for them. Even though leaders have vast "areas" to watch, each individual is essential to the prosperity of the whole. When a person hurts, we all hurt. Leaders take care of their people and care about their well-being. No leader wants "that a bad apple spoils the whole group". No leader should let his people fail.
Once the crops reach maturity, the farmers harvest what has been sown. With proper preparation, planting and care, success is almost achieved. However, the harvest is not enough. The most critical part of the harvest is to make sure that the proper transition measures are taken to go from field to table (or storage).
With regard to leadership development, we can not emphasize the transition process too much. We can attend leadership training after leadership training (any training in this case); but if we do not transfer the acquired knowledge, we are not up to it. Much of the transition from knowledge to wisdom occurs well after class or event. A good leader understands that thinking and integrating are key elements for lasting results. Therefore, they subscribe to a life of learning and continuous improvement. We could even say that we never reach the stage of harvest; we just keep growing and producing.
Unfortunately, there will be a moment when one leader passes the torch to another. If the leaders have done their job well, there will be a new generation of leaders ready to prepare, sow, heal and harvest.
I challenge you to look at your leadership development program. As a leader, do you do everything possible to give your team members the best opportunity to thrive or create a weed and dry environment? Do you cultivate a growth mindset that prepares your team members to take your place? Are you paying attention to all the members and not to a few privileged ones?
Finally, know that the fruits of your work may never be seen. What matters most is that you care about your people and their well-being!
Pam McDonald is an editor and publisher for BLM Wildland Fire Training and Workforce Development and a member of the NWCG Leadership subcommittee. The expressions are those of the author. Neutral pronouns were used.