My garden exists in a state of barely controlled decay: some parts edge towards respectability, whilst much of the rest reverts to a form of untamed prehistoric wilderness. Some parts thrive, others die back. If there is any illusion of respectability, it’s reserved for the small space by the back door where, at least for now, i seem to have won, wrestling ownership from nature, and imposing a space for occasional reading and morning coffee.
But it’s a stolen space, a space that exists out of balance: if i don’t actively maintain it, the weeds encroach. It’s a system held out of balance, much like many of the Organisations that surround us.
I learnt quite early on that i am not a gardener, indeed, i think i tend to fight the garden. I plant the plant that i want to see, not the plant that will thrive in harmony. I tend to plant in isolation, not in sympathy.
The structures of organisation, recognition, advancement, formal learning, and financial reward, often act in the same way: we impose them on a system, without any clear understanding of how they interact, the complex way in which the ecosystem responds. We create systems that are tidy, and easy to represent on a chart, but which are utterly abstract of the complex harmony of the social fabric, or landscapes of trust and fairness.
Perhaps the art, as opposed to the activity, of gardening, is about learning to listen, finding that harmony.
As we evolve our organisations to be fit for the Social Age, perhaps we need to take note of the broader ecosystem: there will be spaces that we can hold against nature, spaces that we can beautify, but much of the real value will lie in the wilderness, and the health of whole system is a balance between the two. They are not independent systems, but rather act in harmony with, or in conflict with, each other.
Our formal leaders are trees, tall trees, within this landscape. But so are our Social Leaders. Between them, they cast a complex fragmentation of shadows, and dappled light. They provide shelter, and occasionally topple over. They draw water, carbon dioxide, and toxins from the system, and give us both organic mass and oxygen in return.
In this sense, Social Leaders are not gardeners: they do not tend to the formal beauty of the flower beds and displays. They exist in the broader ecosystem, beyond the formal beds. But their actions help to hold both safe. If they can find the balance.
The harmony of the Socially Dynamic Organisation will be partly created by our strong formal structures, but held in balance by our strong social ones. This is harmony: a dynamic balance, always in flux, but held mindfully in balance. Social Leaders help us to find that balance.