Sunday, September 16, 2012

Water Your Grass!

Last week, I was running and listening to my iPod, when Justin Beiber’s latest hit song “As Long as You Love Me” started playing.  I love him, and so I’ve listened to that song hundreds of times, but there’s a line in the middle of the track that caught my attention.  Big Sean, the song’s featured rapper states, “The grass isn’t greener on the other side; it’s green where you water it.”  I found those two sentences to be surprisingly profound and provocative for being in the middle of a pop song.  As I kept running, I was thinking about how that quote can be applied in so many different ways.  Sean speaks about hard work and cultivation, rather than perspective.

Hopefully everyone can picture one or several individuals in their minds when prompted to think of a leader they know or admire.  I would imagine that, for many, it is much easier to think of a bad leader: a complacent boss, a dishonest politician, an unprofessional coworker, or a coercive group leader in class.  In these positions, it is assuredly easy to look at that boss or politician and think how much better you would do if in his/her position.  Moreover, it may be easy to examine your own position on the social ladder and lament your inability to make a difference or change the way things are done. 

For me, Sean’s quote is about action versus inaction; perseverance versus complacency; learning and listening versus ignorance.  His words reflect a paradigm shift to see what can be made good and new on your side of the fence, rather than waiting for another person in a position of leadership to fix the problem and revive the dying grass. 

In a leadership study context, this reminds me to consider leadership as a process, as a continuous cultivation.  It is an interaction between a leader and followers, and any individual can rise up to become a leader in that framework (Northouse, 2013, p. 7-8).  If you expect your organization or community, or even yourself, to thrive, you need to cultivate it.  

You have to water your grass in order for it to be green. 

By MarcusObal, CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Jennifer Cohen, an author for Linked 2 Leadership, a blog recognized for its collection of posts published by professionals in the field of leadership development, echoes this idea in her posting about Your Influence Inventory.  She connects the power of influence to practice, specific attention, and dedicated time.  Cohen says that these three steps are necessary for “cementing relationships,” an act mentioned in Northouse’s definition of process leadership: the interaction between leaders and followers (p. 8). 

Maybe those that we view as poor leaders simply haven't spent enough time cultivating themselves, their followers, or their resources.  These leaders may be in a role of assigned leadership (Northouse, p. 8-9), where their power is derived from a place of position.  However, I believe the stronger form of leadership is emergent (p.8-9), where any individual can cultivate his/her influence, or referent power (p. 10-11).  

As I begin forming my own philosophy of leadership over this semester, I will remember Sean's words as a reminder of the power of creating and cultivating one's influence.  Furthermore, using Cohen's steps to determine one's scope of power in leadership, I can further develop my own version of leadership and influence. 


Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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