The art of the good gardener lies in his ability to learn and appreciate natural growth processes. The shift in our understanding of organisations since the days when engineers analysed organisations as they analysed machines for their efficiency is to understand that organisations are fundamentally living systems of human beings. As the potential for growth is in the seed, so it is present in the members of the organisation individually and collectively. However, in the same way that the gardener does not affect growth in a direct sense, for instance to command the seed to grow, the leader can only help create the right conditions for growth. Growth occurs through an interaction between the seed and its environment. It forms a self-reinforcing growth process. No amount of force from the leader can affect or accelerate the natural growth process. What the leader, as the gardener, can do is to limit the conditions that constrain growth. The gardener will focus his attention on providing adequate water, sunlight, soil nutrients, room for the roots to expand and the right temperature. The leader creates the right conditions for growth by focusing his attention on the levels of trust (allowing for innovation and creativity), shared vision, the quality of relationships and teamwork, and the strategic positioning of the organisation in relation to its environment. This way leaders does not drive change but participate in the growth processes and mitigate the constraints on change.
Dr Gerhard van Rensburg is an experienced leadership and executive coach and consultant in the field of organisational development. He has vast experience in individual and team coaching and worked with various clients.
He is also the author of two leadership books: The leadership challenge in Africa and Leadership thoughts – inspire yourself inspire others.
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