For gardeners like me, June in Southern Ontario is the peak of the season. Everything is lush, green, colourful, and fragrant. All the hard work of spring preparation and last year’s perennial planting is now paying off.

“Servant Leadership” is the theme of the June issue of The Leader Letter being published tomorrow. So here’s a June riddle for you; what does gardening have in common with “servant leadership?”

I see a few parallels. Plants, like people, can’t really be “motivated” to perform. It’s an inside job. Gardeners, like good coaches, make sure the right people – or plants – are in the right locations planted in fertile soil to play to their strengths. We need to ensure they’re well fed and watered. But an especially key gardening – and leadership task – is removing the weeds and consistently pruning so their intrinsic nature to grow is fully nurtured and developed.

What is “servant leadership?” Years ago The CLEMMER Group was helping a Client identify best leadership practices among their high performing managers. One especially effective manager’s leadership philosophy was one of the best definitions of servant leadership we’ve ever heard. He said, “Most of the people who work here do have passion and purpose for the work they do. It’s about respecting that, facilitating their desire to do good work, and removing obstacles from their path that frustrate their efforts.”

Here are other perspectives on the mindset and actions of servant leaders:

“Servant leadership is part of our ethic…the leader exists for the benefit of the firm, not the firm for the benefit of the leader. When we lead by serving, we are committed to being an example for others to follow, an initiator for change and growth, and an activist for the future.”
– C. William Pollard, The Soul of the Firm

“Organizations that take constructive action based on employee survey results have shareholder returns that are twice as high as those that don’t.”
– Research by Watson Wyatt Worldwide, “Pay For Performance Report”

“Instead of pushing solutions on problem employees, the manager should pull solutions out of them by creating circumstances in which the employees can channel their motivation toward achievable goals. That means addressing any obstacles–possibly even the manager’s own de-motivating style – that might be hindering the employees.”
– Nigel Nicholson, “How to Motivate Your Problem People,” Harvard Business Review

“Whoever renders service to many puts himself in line for greatness –- great wealth, great return, great satisfaction, great reputation, and great joy.”
– Jim Rohn, American entrepreneur, author, and professional speaker

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 – 1968), American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American civil rights movement

“The greatest motivational act one person can do for another is to listen.”
– Roy E Moody, author and professional speaker