in Leadership, Leading People

Leading, Farming And The Need To ‘Cultivate’

Many years ago, I had a chance to visit a friend’s farm on a weekend. My friend owned a huge farm on the outskirts of the city where they had employed farmers. A farmer’s outcome was quality of the crop. To ensure this, the farmer worked the soil, got the best seeds from the marketplace, sowed them all and watered them with great care. When these crops grew, he would nurture the growth of each crop. Farmers have to wait for months before seeds turn into standing crop. Certain situations (like weather, timely rain etc.) are out of their control, but farmers have to be eternally optimistic that crops will grow and yield the desired results. He did just that by extending a lot of human care to the crops.

Aren’t leaders farmers too? Leaders do to people what the farmer did to crops. Cultivate them to deliver desired outcomes. ‘Cultivate‘ is used mostly in agricultural context, but its real meaning is “foster the growth of“.

A leaders outcome is the quality of their team’s outcome. To ensure this, a leader has to get best people, work on them, understand them, share the vision, align their actions, get the best of them, communicate often and nurture their performance with great care. Leaders know that they may have to wait for long before people deliver desired outcomes. Certain situations are still out of a leader’s control, but a leader too, has to be eternally optimistic about people and their potential. I was thinking that if a farmer can extend human care to a crop, isn’t it absolutely must for leaders to see/treat their team members as ‘humans’ and not just ‘resources’?

That’s my take away for today: Great leaders are farmers – cultivators of human potential.


  1. Again nice one, Tanmay.

    My $0.2%: Leaders are like farmers for sure. They need abundance of hope and faith in an uncertain next. It’s more like Farming Mango trees. The farmer needs to have faith for the considerable loooong time after planting the seed. It is also possible that next generation of the farmer will enjoy the fruits. So, like farmers, leader also need to have ample of selflessness. They need to focus on what they are doing now, not how the results would be. So, it’s about detachment with outcome and commitment towards the work – That’s what Hindu scripture Bhagawad-Gita also says.

    .-= Utpal Vaishnav´s last blog ..Play The Music- Don’t Let It Play With You! =-.

    • @Utpal – You bring out a very important point. Selflessness is at the core of great leadership. Leaders share their gifts with the world (even when they may not be the beneficiaries) like the farmer who plants so that the fruits can be enjoyed by the next generation. That is a gift. As you rightly pointed out, it all boils down to “Theory of Karma” as described in Bhagawad Gita. Do the job well without thinking/worrying about the result.

      Thanks for that very interesting two cents! 🙂


  2. Long term growth and cultivating people is ideal. Oftentimes, in the larger corporate culture of focussing on quarterly results, the priority becomes the immediate short- term strategy–leading to high risk growth.
    Overuse of fertilizer and pesticide would be an example of that.

    Truly organic leadership is one that:
    – creates best value
    – is sustainable
    – is not harmful to the culture and quality of the organization
    – produces nontoxic output

    • @Setu Vora – Thanks for adding those brilliant points. As you very rightly said, driving people (and their performances) through short-term goals leads to risky growth where people are only seen as ‘means to an end’ (resources). Cultivating people takes time, but is at the core of leadership and building a sustainable culture.

  3. Leaders ideally should be selfless, but in practical corporate life, how many times it happens? How many times do leaders (who are also humans and employees) tend to be selfless to an extent that they keep believing in doing things without expecting results for themselves?

    Many factors might restrict them to have implement this ideology sometimes and not all the times 🙂 And sometimes to cover this behavior (of being less/not selfless) people say – Be Professional at work not emotional.

    • @Jay – Thanks for bringing that alternative perspective on board. Here is my view:

      Even in ‘practical corporate life’ being selfless is important for better results. When a leader selflessly serves his people, it only elevates people’s performance (and hence a leader’s performance). So when leaders nurture their people, it comes back to them in form of better business outcomes. In my view, caring for people, cultivating their performance and uncovering their potential is a selfish activity. You can get people to work by coercing them, or by inspiring them. The latter is a much better strategy for long term success as a leader and long term success of the organization.

  4. I agree to this Tanmay. It should all start from Top in an organization.
    Just like in a family (which also in an organization) good habbits of parents gets inherited in children, leaders in top management can initiate these good practices to flow to below levels.
    Inspiration do blossoms individuals performance.

    Accepted with full regards 🙂

    Jay Chhaya

  5. You are so right. As a farmer myself, I know how many things can destroy a crop. From Feb to May, I always wish for the smooth summer for the good mango (no storm, no rain, no monkeys) and even till harvesting if everything is smooth, you are not sure about an early monsoon.

    But there are people who still bet on those mango trees and request for mango trees on rent for the summer. Like you wrote in your comment about Bhagawat Gita’s message about Karma ~ Plow the land, seed the plant, water it, fruits will come anyways.

  6. @Jay – Thanks. Leadership is all about doing the best amidst constraints. You rightly pointed out that all behaviors are modeled at the top.


  7. @Ajay – Thanks for affirming the thoughts with your own experiences as a farmer. “Cultivation” is a very interesting word when it comes to leadership.


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