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The Sculptor vs The Gardener

I don’t know a lot about what it takes to make someone a good leader. It requires you to continuously consider future unknowns to make present actions through past outcomes. It’s a nearly impossible task, especially if you believe it’s something that can be taught, codified, and mastered.

I don’t.

A long time ago I heard there are two different ways to parent, that I think it also applies to leadership. That here are sculptors and gardeners.

Sculptors want to carve and chisel, molding people into the shape they envision.

Gardeners want to cultivate and nurture, hoping people grow into the potential they contain.

The sculptors have good intentions. They want to be purposeful and prepared, authoritative and decisive. They want to shape others into what they would like or hope them to be. But they are in for a life of frustration and disappointment. The inherit assumption is that there is one “artist”, or one source, of what can or should influence and change a person. The desire to prepare and predict specific outcomes in order to mitigate or even avoid dangers and surprises, dictates their interactions with others. In short, it’s manipulation.

Far too often this is what we expect and require from our leaders - to have a vision for outcomes and to make that a reality. And almost always it’s turns out terribly for everyone.

The reality is you cannot sculpt a person. We aren’t marble or clay, and life isn’t the isolated results of one person - despite how much you might believe or wish that to be true. No matter how prepared and informed and experienced you may be, you cannot control all situations and circumstances that influence life. You can prepare the ground, pull the weeds, water the soil, guard against dangers, but there’s no guarantee your seed will grow into what you want.

Fight against it all you want, but ultimately all any of us can really be in my experience, is a gardener.

4:41 pm
Tuesday, July 5, 2022