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Leadership, Lawn-mowing & 3 Realities

We moved a few years ago. We left behind a half-acre yard and steep hills. In its place: a yard that can be mowed in 30 minutes. Front and back. From putting my gloves on, getting the mower out of the shed, filling it up, firing it up,  emptying the grass-catcher a few times, wiping it down and putting it away, I’ve spent no more than half an hour.  Read on to see what that has to do with leadership.

My mowing season is almost over

As the summer starts to wind down, I realize that I won’t need to do too many more mowings before the grass grows dormant.  And I’ll miss it.

That’s because mowing the lawn feels good and satisfying. Unlike lots of the leadership responsibilities you and I carry, when it comes to the lawn, thirty minutes after starting, the project is done.  The grass looks better, the edges are cleaner, the sidewalks are swept off and I’m done.

No matter how many unfinished projects, employees or clients that need something from me, work issues that aren’t easily resolved, longer-term plans that need to be developed or whatever else is on my plate at the office, coming home and mowing the lawn lets me accomplish something and check it off the list.

Indeed, some weeks mowing the lawn feels like the only thing I both started and finished that week.

Three Leadership Realities

Leader – how many open projects do you have?  How many people do you work with? Unfortunately, there are three leadership realities that fill our plates and our minds.

Leaders are about people.  While managers can be about things, if you are a leader, that means you are about people. And people are messy. You can’t put them into 30-minute boxes.

Leaders are about the difficult things.  You can delegate the easy things.  Indeed, if you are a good manager and leader, you’ve already set up things so that the easy things are taken care of by someone else. Which means the only things left for you are the ones that aren’t easily taken care of.

Leaders are about the future. Front-line workers are about today, but as soon as you move up even one level in your organization, you start becoming about tomorrow.  The higher in the organization, the farther your thinking needs to go.  And that means that you can’t finish it up, wipe it down, and put it away.

Here’s what this means to you and me: our leadership lives may be filled with frustration – people we can’t easily fix, issues we can’t easily resolve, plans we can’t quickly enact.

And it also means more of us need to mow our own lawns.