Why pulling weeds is a great Leadership Practice
This weekend was devoted to puling the thriving population of Canada thistles in my yard. If you don’t know about this “weed” it grows from an extensive deep root system. One scientist started with one foot of Canada thistle root stock and in two years it had produced over 600 feet of roots. Since these roots are deeper than you can realistically dig and the plant is a perineal, eradication is a long term project and takes patience.
I had avoided tackling this project because I was in despair. Why even go after these weeds when they certainly be back. As I was contemplating doing something else this weekend, I was remembering the sand mandala of TIbetan monks. Witnessing this art of absolute creation is quite wonderful. The monks put their full attention on creating an intricate and beautiful work of art that has images that have been part of their tradition for centuries. Sometimes weeks of daily attention are involved in the bringing this mandala to life.
After the painstaking work of the monks, when the mandala is finished it is swept into a pile and the sand is thrown into a river. This practice is a reminder for them of the impermanence of every aspect of our lives.
As I remembered the monks practice, I recognized that pulling the thistles was like a mandala for me. While I was not creating a beautiful painting per se with my actions, I was allowing other plants to grow into their full beauty without being chocked out by the thistles. I also realized that this type of service was one that could relax me if I did not hold onto a need for my work to be permanent. So my wife and I went about the process of pulling out the weeds. We knew more thistles would be back and we enjoyed the time together and the practice of bringing new beauty into our home.
I also realized that business leaders also are faced with weeds to pull almost daily. We each have some part of our work that is ongoing and we don’t particularly want to do. It could be taking care of the obstacles we are facing on a project knowing that if I eliminate today’s obstacles more obstacles will be here tomorrow. Or it could be administrative tasks that will surely be back tomorrow.
Each of us has some thistles in our work garden. Probably we are not excited about pulling these weeds so we put it off as I did. What is the outcome of delay. MORE WEEDS. They will go on until something disrupts their unchallenged growth.
What are the thistles in your work life? What can you do today to begin the process of pulling these weeds with the joy of doing it at your best and letting all annoyance be gone?