When gardeners plants seeds, they intend to yield a
harvest. For example, dry, hard, yellow kernels will
give rise to tall, green stalks laden with ears of fresh,
delicious corn—if everything goes right.
The process involves many phases—deciding to
plant a garden, envisioning the outcome, and learning
everything you can about soil, compost, weather
patterns, fertilizer, insects, and the position of the sun.
But no matter how much we learn and how hard we
work, the most important part of the process is intention.
Intention is the potent act of outpicturing—allowing
our vision to move from the realm of thought into the
realm of manifestation. We don’t control the weather,
the sun, the bugs, or the corn—we are there only as
witnesses and collaborators. All creation is cocreation.
The wisdom traditions of the world warn us of the
perils of confusing intention with attachment. “Work
without attachment to the fruits of work,” Krishna
teaches in the Bhagavad Gita. And in the Sermon on the
Mount, Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms to renounce
all anxiety about the future. Worrying isn’t going to add
one inch to your corn. And Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching
put it this way: “Rushing into action, you fail. Trying
to grasp things, you lose them. Forcing a project to
completion, you ruin what was almost ripe.” You can’t
make the corn grow faster by yelling at it, tugging on it,
or nervously pacing up and down the rows.
Our job is not to grow the corn. Our job is to cocreate
the conditions in which the corn can grow itself. Corn
already knows far more about how to become corn than
we could ever know.
Whether we are growing corn, raising children, or
building a career, the same principles apply. All we
can do is set intentions, hold aspirations, and envision
fruition. But the minute you slip into the seductive
delusion that you are in control, chaos reigns and the
only crop you’ll yield is suffering for all involved.
Many of us have worked for micromanagers, bosses
who hover over you, directing your every move.
Under these meddlesome circumstances workers lose
their two most potent qualities—innate enthusiasm
and creative problem-solving skills. Nothing quells
the enthusiasm and creativity of a work team faster
than micromanagement. Instead, hire great people,
create the conditions in which they can thrive, and
get out of the way.
Under micromanagement, employees stop trying and
stop caring because they’ve received the message loud
and clear: Their essence isn’t valued or even necessary.
They’re seen not as human beings but as extensions of
the boss—robotic appendages without heart or vision.
When you’re dehumanized, your soul lives in exile. The
only reason you show up now is for the paycheck. Is that
what anyone wanted?
As a leader you have two principal tasks: articulate the
group’s intention and manage the structural processes
so your employees don’t have to. As a leader, your only
question to your employees should be, “What can I do to
support you today?”
A leader is a planter of seeds. Taking leadership in
your own life is a matter of humbly but boldly setting
intentions, then letting go. As Lao Tzu wrote, “If you
want to be a great leader, you must learn to follow the
Tao. Stop trying to control. Let go of fixed plans and
concepts, and the world will govern itself.”
Spirituality, philosophy, and mythology from the world’s wisdom traditions
PETER BOLLAND, CHAIR OF THE
HUMANITIES DEPARTMENT AT
SOUTHWESTERN COLLEGE IN CHULA VISTA,
CALIFORNIA, ATTENDS THE UNITY CENTER
IN SAN DIEGO, WHERE HE TEACHES
CLASSES ON WORLD SPIRITUALITY. VISIT
A TO ZEN