Get the dirt on leadership

For several years back in my high school days, I worked in a garden center. It was a fun job and I learned a lot. As a result, I have always had an eye for landscaping and enjoy getting my hands dirty – especially in the spring with the planting of flowers and various projects.
I vividly remember those days in the winter months at the garden center. Business was always slow but we were busy preparing for spring. We would build greenhouses to store the hundreds and hundreds of roses that we would spend countless hours potting. 
I often look back on those days and see how one’s growth and development as a leader have similar parallels. Here are a few lessons I learned from my days in the garden center that apply to leadership.
If you want to be a leader, be willing to pick up the shovel
One of the big drawbacks to mixing the fertilizer, of course, was the smell. It wasn’t pleasant. But the job had to be done. But before too long, it was something that we’d get used to over time. 
The potting process took a couple of months to complete. And while unpleasant in the beginning, after a while no one even talked about it. We just shoveled our way through it one rose at a time.
The lesson: If you are not willing to humble yourself as a leader and pick up the shovel, then you forfeit the ability to lead. Leadership is not about the entitlements you think you deserve, but about the posture of your heart. As someone said, if serving is beneath you then leading is beyond you.
If you want to be a leader, expect to get some cuts and thorns
After the greenhouses were built and the soil prepared, the potting process began. There was nothing really glamorous about it. We’d have stacks of one-gallon buckets and we would fill the bucket to the prescribed limit, prune the rose, and pot it. 
While the process was monotonous, there were two things we could always count on - thorns and cuts. Despite the wearing of gloves it always happened and by the end of the day, our hands would be bloody and scarred.
The lesson: Many aspiring leaders want the rewards of someone else’s labor but are not always willing to pay the price to grasp it for themselves. They want the smell and beauty of the rose that makes them look good, but not the smell of crap on their hands that made it possible. If you want to be a leader, you have to get your hands dirty and put up with a few thorns along the way.
If you want to be a leader, you must grow yourself daily
In the garden center, we worked tirelessly every day in those winter months because we knew spring was coming. We knew the payoff for our efforts was within our reach if we worked hard. 
The days were long and tiring but worth it in the end. Every part of the process was intentional and calculated and the outcome was profitable.
The lesson: If you desire to grow as a leader, you must be intentional about your growth and daily do those things that move you in the right direction. Your growth and development as a leader are not accidental. It’s on purpose. And without a plan, you will never grow as a leader.  
Final Thoughts
Make the commitments daily to grow in your leadership. Remember that it’s not about you and never has been. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and remember that before you can grow others, you must first grow yourself. 
©2022 Doug Dickerson. Doug Dickerson is a certified leadership speaker, trainer, and coach. Learn more at

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