“It is better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.” is a paraphrase of a Chinese proverb.
Most professionals at nonprofits and NGOs are a lot of a gardener and a little bit of a warrior. The gardener — cultivating collaborations, tending to stakeholders, sowing to reap. The warrior — training, assessing, protecting and attacking to achieve an end.
Traditional philanthropic models are fading as the scale and urgency of our social and environmental issues require more aggressive and market based solutions. The landscape has become more hostile, sometimes with powerful and blatant opposition to progress.
The work at nonprofits and NGOs has always been tough, but the overlay of the COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges and intensified existing ones. Staff need high caliber insight, capacity, direction and inspiration from their leadership. Mission-driven leaders can further development themselves so their teams can succeed. World centric warriors are needed in the garden.
Warrior style training, often used by corporate executives and athletes should be adopted by those tasked with leading social and environmental missioned organizations. Being a world centric warrior means using discipline to better oneself in order to serve those around you.
Employing mindfulness, methodically facing fear and using visualization are techniques that can benefit focus, capacity and decision making. Becoming a warrior in the garden is to forge one’s self in order to serve a team and a greater mission. In the words of U.S. Navy SEAL trainer and leadership coach Mark Divine — “Mastery of self is in service, and allows more powerful service, to humanity”.
This practice needs to be structured, constant and honest. It’s a transformation that requires a plan. It’s best undertaken with the guidance of a mentor, who’s been on a similar path and achieved some mastery.
The battlefields of the world’s critical social and environmental issues are going to be very challenging. Just as with COVID-19, there will be unforeseen attacks. For these battles to be won, it will require more complete leaders; both warrior and gardener.
“Tending the garden is a relaxing pastime, but it does not prepare one for the inevitable battles of life. It is easy to be calm in a serene setting. To be calm and serene when under attack is much more difficult; therefore, I tell you that it is far better to be a warrior tending his garden rather than a gardener at war.”