Leadership Lessons from My Neighbor’s Garden

In the small town where we live, there’s an older couple who maintains an impressive garden:


This is no small feat, let me tell you. It’s all I can do to keep my grass alive and keep the weeds from overtaking the front porch.

Sure, gardening takes time, which is in more plentiful supply for retirees, but what are the other factors that enable our neighbors to have such an impressive garden, year after year?

Let’s take a look, but in terms applicable to our work as school leaders.

Clarity about success

Just as our neighbors know exactly what they want to grow, we need to have a high degree of clarity about what we want for our students, and how we’ll make it happen.

Adequately robust systems in place to produce results

You don’t see a berry bush here and a tomato plant there; this entire garden exudes order and purposeful design.

Our neighbors aren’t going to get “some” corn; they’re going to get a substantial amount, and while this amount will vary (weather and students are always outside of our direct control, even with plenty of “watering”), the range of variation is acceptable because the margin of safety is pretty generous.


I’m guessing our neighbors aren’t consumed by a thousand random hobbies. They know their garden demands significant time and attention, and they’ve resisted the temptation to divide their focus, in order to do well what’s most important to them.

Do we have the same level of focus on carefully-chosen improvement initiatives? Are we fending off distractions from our core work?

What other parallels can you draw? Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.

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About the Author

Justin Baeder helps school administrators increase their productivity through the High-Performance Instructional Leadership Network. Learn More ยป

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