Sustainable leadership requires seed planting and weed pulling

Posted on Posted in Leadership

In my line of work, I know that there is always potential for unpredictable, unexplainable things to happen.  Sometimes the job of supporting students, their families, and members of the community through moments of extreme crisis, trauma, or challenge weighs heavy on my mid and heart.  I love the fact that during the course of my work I experience a range of experiences.  I love the fact that monotony is not my daily experience because monotonous living never satisfies my soul.  The variety of work experiences provides opportunity for me to enrich and nourish my soul regularly.

I am challenged (and not in a good way) when the unpredictable and unexplainable experiences stir in me feelings of sadness, disappointment, extreme frustration, or some combination of the three.  I never want to repeat the experiences that cause that those types of deep emotional moments.  Those moments can figuratively make time stop and the earth shake beneath my feet.  At those moments, I have forgotten the excitement shared with a student who lived to tell the story of overcoming challenges.  At those times, I have remembered the importance of a supportive community.  At those times, I reflected and began new thoughts about prevention, education, and support services for community members.  My experiences in higher education have taught me that when the work taxes me and my colleagues at a soul-stirring level, we must respect the impact of those moments by removing ourselves long enough to process the experiences and recover from the same.  Last week, I gave myself permission to process and recover which meant not writing a blog post last weekend.

Over the course of the week, I was reminded of just how messy, petty, and self-absorbed some folks can be in the name of the greater good or a higher power.  I observed the self-absorbed take a defensive posture while espousing the messaging of a victim or martyr without acknowledging the challenges of their talented peers.  It seemed that some spent so much energy fueling wet timber that they missed opportunities to flame ties already lit.

The work of most student services professionals is performed outside of physical classrooms.  As a result, I felt that we can be devalued and minimized by some and taken for granted by others. I grew tired in the last few weeks of listening to folks whose rhetoric spoke of hopeful, progressive, genuine  concern for the greater good yet the methodology and practices produced little fruit.  I believed that there was little fruit because the weeds grew as fast as the poisoned seeds they planted.  I have never seen a productive or sustainable garden without a gardner planting seed in fertile ground then investing time in the weed pulling and nurturing of the crop.  I was a seed planter and a weed puller who watched an organically grown crop be fertilized with poison, crappy feed my should ached.  My soul ached because the farmers satisfied their egos by standing on pedestals at the county fair smiling and showing off the prized goods.  They cared more about the attention they garnered than they cared about the science of farming.  The prize winning farmers wanted the trophy and the recognition without regard for the quality of crop they produced and fed to the community.  They had no regard for replenishing the land either.

I have always said that I didn’t inherit Mama’s green thumb.  Now, I believe her gardening skills lived on through me.  Mama was a life long educator and she always had some type of garden at the house.  Here are lessons I learned from her that transferred nicely to my life the last few weeks.

  1. Having a vision of a vibrant garden is enough to justify investing time and resources into the work of gardening.
  2. Be honest with yourself about the tools and resources at your disposal.  Extrapolating on the real situation or straight fabrication never makes the untruths true or the soil fertile enough to yield a bountiful, sustainable harvest.
  3. Variety is a good thing when it comes to the aesthetics and longevity of the garden.
  4. Take care of and pride in your work.  Ownership of self, of the work product, and outcomes go together.  Ownership of one and not the others usually manifests itself in manipulation and shady business.
  5. Know the elements and adapt.  I like to think that there is enough sunlight for everybody to feel the shine, but I have learned that some have the sharecropping mentality that makes them the owner of the land and the light.
  6. Sometimes folks mimic master sorcerers and not farmers who take pride in their work.  They seek to manipulate all of the elements in order to control the growth and production of the crop.  This type of manipulation agitates root systems, burns foliage, and frustrates seed planters and weed pullers who contributed their time and energy solely for the purpose of blessing others with a plethora of beautiful vibrant living things at some unknown point in the future.
  7. Educators work in fields of potential whether there is one student or thousands or students.
  8. If you identify as an educator, your successes shouldn’t be contingent on public approval.
  9. Educators should be careful not to over water the field or strip the land of the richness that might make the environment flourish.
  10. Finally, appreciate the space, the gift to invest in the crop, and share the blessing with others freely.


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