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Through this journey with the leadership faculty, my ideas around leadership have changed dramatically. My initial idea was that of one person “in the know” calling all the shots and making decisions for others to carry out. It soon dawned on me that leadership is more than that. It would seem that a leader must possess a good level of emotional intelligence, alongside an understanding of the arena in which they work. Leadership is about empowering people to achieve, to progress and succeed, without getting in their way.
Listening – really listening – is another faculty that needs developing, honing and implementing. The skill of listening and deliberating, not feeling the need to rush, should lead to more measured responses. Keeping an eye on the bigger picture at all times, whilst keeping in mind the value of and need for detail.
Creating space for people to learn, grow and work is an important aspect of leadership. This leads to teams that develop projects and assume ownership, and so a cycle of positivity, creativity and productivity is put in motion. It helps us realise we are surrounded and supported by outstanding people.
The first two photographs were both taken on the same day, in the same place; in fact, only a metre apart! This shows that, depending on your perspective, the very same space can be either a dead tip or a living, stunning view. Understanding the potential, both positive and negative, of people, spaces or ideas, leaves space for them to grow, progress or indeed sometimes regress.
The Mustard Tree garden, over the past 3 years has been many things. It began as a concrete-covered eyesore and a blot on the local landscape. It then became a training ground for Mustard Tree participants to gain gardening skills, whilst transforming it into a fully developed garden. This provided fruit and veg, and a place of rest and recuperation from the busyness of the day. It has been a haven for birds, frogs, butterflies and bees and an oasis of colour for Ancoats.
It then became unmanageable, and was used as a hideout for drug users and homeless people, rendering it an unsafe space. Now, in the third photo, it has been cleared and levelled, and plans to create a green public space are underway. The life of the garden is a good metaphor for the changing nature of life and work. In leadership there always needs to be flexibility in approaching life, people and plans.
Graham Hudson is Creative Programmes Manager at Mustard Tree’s Ancoats base. In 2009 he joined the charity’s Freedom Project as a volunteer, whilst homeless, alcoholic and chronically depressed. Graham has long been one of Mustard Tree’s best advocates