Leadership is gardening

A new model for new leaders

Leadership is gardening
Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash
Mushroom management (noun) Keep them in the dark and feed them bullshit.

Gardening can be an awkward metaphor for management, especially if you’ve lived in organizations that practice the above. Our metaphor here is the outdoor kind that needs sunshine and nurturing.

One of the scariest moments in a tech career, for those that choose to, is the moment that you are formally asked to be a leader. I have observed (particularly in scaling startups) that there isn’t necessarily anyone there to tell you what to expect.

Above all - the payoff is different.

When you are an individual contributor, the payoffs are constant. You always understand the work you’re doing and the contributions you made - one push, one fix, one change at a time. You have a history you can point to of all the tangible work you did.

As a leader, much of that disappears. Your job is suddenly to serve, to listen. You’re a gardener now, and you don’t know if the changes you’re making now will yield a harvest in three months. You will have days in this transition where you question whether “you did any work today”. It’s normal, you did, and you’re feeling the perspective shift.

For this reason (and I am no exception), you see career arcs when people oscillate in and out of management over a few years until this sense of delayed payoff becomes tolerable.

Be an authentic gardener, be yourself, and maintain faith on those days where you feel like you haven’t “done anything”. You’ve just switched to serving other people.

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Jamie Larson