By Kitty Ambers
Each spring, I enjoy the time I spend freshening up my flowerbeds. I don’t have a particularly green thumb, so I appreciate hardy perennials, like Hostas. During this year’s spring gardening frenzy, it struck me that cultivating Hostas is like developing leadership skills.
Here are five lessons on leadership we can learn from Hosta plants:
1. Hostas have a broad selection of colors, heights, and textures. There’s a variety to fit nearly any situation. That’s part of what is so appealing about having them in any garden or planter. As we think about what makes a true leader successful, one key trait is that we encourage and cultivate diversity across our teams.
- Young people bring new energy and ideas; more mature personnel bring experience.
- Left-brained, practical thinking helps to turn right-brained creativity into results.
- Dominant and Influencer personalities “sell” the consistent and accurate work done by the Steady and Compliant types.
Just like Hosta varietals, the list of different characteristics and traits is endless. The key is to place each in a climate that best suits their preferred method of growth.
2. Hostas tend to prefer moist, rich soil. They are drought tolerant, but you can’t let them dry out too much. Well, duh! What doesn’t grow well with the proper care and feeding? However, because these plants are so tolerant, it can often be difficult to see distress until it’s too late and they’ve experienced “crown rot.”
In the work environment, similar conditions could impact our people. The good ones are tolerant. They may give subtle signs of distress, but the best performers typically aren’t bent toward blow-ups or drama, so their distress goes unnoticed until it’s too late. As leaders, we must work hard to notice subtle signs of slowing growth and be sure to fertilize and water regularly. That’s why regular communication and a consistent meeting cadence that includes stimulating content is critical for team growth.
3. Hostas can grow well in shady locations, but a rule of thumb for the placement and care of these plants is the lighter the foliage, the more the need for sun. So, in addition to moist, rich soil, Hostas need occasional sunlight for optimal growth.
The same holds true for growing people. Even those who shy away from recognition and the limelight need occasional “sunlight”, aka, recognition. These people may not wish to be given an onstage award, but a handwritten, meaningful thank you note goes a long way. As leaders, we must consider the variety of personalities among our team members and direct sunlight on them according to their needs.
4. Hostas are relatively disease free, but they do have predators. Deer find them tasty, and slugs can leave unsightly holes in the leaves. There are remedies for both scenarios, including planting daffodils around the plants to prevent deer, and scattering sand around them to keep slugs away.
As leaders in our organizations, we too need to ensure we are doing the right things to keep predators away. Ensure that people understand the role they play in the overall mission of the organization. Ensure that benefits and perks are meaningful, and that rewards and recognition have impact. This will go a long way to minimizing the effects of predators.
5. Hostas flourish when you dig up and divide plants every three to five years, as they are putting out new growth. This reminds me of the responsibility we have as leaders to grow future leaders. As we spot new growth, we should encourage and facilitate “transplanting” whether that’s in our own garden or to a new plot of ground.
People, like Hosta plants, will thrive when they receive the right care.