Leaders Water the Grass

Blooming habiscus

Have you ever been really thirsty? As in you drank the entire jug of water? Like a couple liters? There have been a few times in my life when I was absolutely parched. One time I was hiking in the Appalachian Mountains and ran out of water. The temps that day were in the low 90s (Fahrenheit) and the humidity was high. I had a 50lb pack on my back I was hiking on a trail than had my steep climbs and descents. By the time I reach a location with water, I’d hiked nearly 21 miles. I was so thirsty that I had to pace myself so I wouldn’t over-drink.

On another occasion, I was riding my mountain bike in the Sonoran Desert and blew a tire. My spare tube was bad and my Camelback had leaked without my realizing it. I had to walk my bike back to the car (several hours) without water. The good news was that I had a gallon milk jug filled with water in the car. Upon my return, I drank it all. I was thirsty!

Having spent several years in dry climates like the Mohave Desert, the Sonoran Desert, and Colorado, I recognize the value of water. And after a few miscalculations, I’m careful to carry extra water, a water filter, and locate sources of water ahead of time when I’m out on an adventure. There’s not much worse than being stranded for hours in a hot environment without water, especially if you’ve lost a lot of water through exercise.

I can’t even imagine how people survive on a raft or log at sea without fresh drinking water. What a trial! We all know that people can survive much longer without food than they can without water. Water is life. Several years ago, I went to Kenya to help repair a water storage tank that was serviced by a well that had fallen into disrepair. Over several trips, teams from my church repaired the well, installed a new solar-powered pump and rebuilt the storage tank. The well was located on a former British estate that had been abandoned. The old pump worked occasionally but there was no place to store the water. Even so, women from tribes in the area walked as much as 30 mile each way to get water. If the pump wasn’t working, they went home empty handed. If the pump was working, they collected water and carried it 30 miles home.

Once the pump and tank repairs were made, there was sufficient water for everyone. And it was always available. In the past, there had been fights between local tribes over the water access and many were killed. Once the project was completed, there was a large gathering during which the tribes were shown how the pump and tank system worked. There was a demonstration that showed how there was sufficient water for all the tribes. No fighting over water was necessary. No more killing. There was even sufficient water for the few livestock in the area. Water is valuable, all over the world.

I was, again, reminded of this during the last couple days. After a 6 year absence, I’m back in Colorado for the holiday weekend. Visiting family. I love Colorado. And I typically think of Colorado as being green (which it is, mostly). But in places like Denver, much of the “green” is a result of irrigation systems. Without irrigation, the grass wouldn’t be green in July and many of the flowers wouldn’t survive. Of course, the native wildflowers and trees that are native to Colorado are a different story. But in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado Springs, and Boulder, the grass and flowers need water to survive. Without it, they would wither and die.

People, like grass and trees, need water to survive. People also need “water” to flourish. They need to receive encouragement. They need to be recognized. They need to be acknowledged. They need to be engaged. They need to be coached. They need to be nurtured. Without “water,” individuals and organizations will wither and die. Maybe not physically, but emotionally. They will go through the motions. They will do just enough. They will never maximize their potential. They will achieve limited results. They will quit on the job.

Great leaders “water the grass.” They encourage others. They build others up. They invest in others. They coach. They nurture. They grow. Great leaders carry with them the most valuable commodity on earth. Clean, fresh water. And they spread it around. Great leaders “water the grass.”

How about you? Do you water the grass? Are you being watered? Do you encourage, nuture and invest in others? Yourself?

Have a great week and remember to “water the grass.” And finally, don’t take your clean, fresh, literal water for granted. It’s gold.

is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.

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