Based in Sydney, Australia, Foundry is a blog by Rebecca Thao. Her posts explore modern architecture through photos and quotes by influential architects, engineers, and artists.

The Myth of Control and Influence

One of my favorite analogies for leadership is that of the gardener. It's a deep analogy that can be extrapolated into all kinds of intriguing scenarios. The idea of weeding out the garden bed, the idea of pruning plants, the concepts of quality soil, and even the details of specific kinds of plants, all present quality leadership truth. The interesting thing, though, is how they focus on what a leader can do. They focus on our influence - and rightly so. That's what we do as leaders. It's intriguing to me, though, to consider this analogy from the perspective of what we can't influence. This is just as important in deciding where to focus our leadership efforts.

The interesting thing about a healthy garden is that, like all of nature, we have significant control and influence over it but ultimately can't guarantee the results. For growth, plants and flowers need the right environment. Gardeners can go to extensive lengths to provide such an environment, but ultimately we are at the mercy of mother nature (or God - but this is a subject for another post). Extreme heat, winds, rains, drought, fire, ice, frost, and many other things can have adverse affect beyond our control. Even when we do everything right as a gardener, we sometimes fail to achieve the desired results if the environment doesn't cooperate. Frustrating, to say the least.

So how about your leadership experiences? All leaders operate in some sort of environment beyond our control. For many of us, we operate within an organization in which we don't make all the decisions. Some of us might assume if we moved up in the organization - even all the way to the top - then we would finally have the control. Even this is flawed, as any entrepreneur could tell you. We can't control the economy or the global climate. We can't control other motives. We can't control natural disasters. Heck, we can't even control other organizations and competitors.

So here is the key - leaders have to measure success based on their environmental conditions. Leadership is not about control, it's about reaction and response. We can't control the environment, no matter our role in the organization. The only thing we can control is our performance, and the performance of our teams, within the environment we are dealt. It also means it is critical that leaders understand the environment they are operating within.

Have you spent any time recently evaluating your environment? Are you chasing things you can't control? Don't get caught by the myth that you can control your environment to achieve success. There will always be influences beyond our reach. Our success comes in response, not control, of those things.

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