By Alice Tibbetts

“Be the weed growing in the cracks in the cement, beautiful–because it doesn’t know it’s not supposed to grow there”

–Shane Koyczan  

Women leaders are as diverse and varied as the plants and seeds on this Earth. 

Female leaders are not just politicians or CEOs; they also can be our mothers, our teachers, our farmers, and our domestic workers. For those of us who possess the sacred seeds of female leadership, here is a guide to planting and maintaining your leadership plants. This guide is meant to encourage young women to think deeply about their own potential and how to create the best environment for growth and renewal. 

Only you can know the best conditions for your inner leader and I encourage you to trust your intuition, using my words as a mere guide. Your plants will need Earth, Sun, and Water, for these are the things that feed all life on Earth, including the female soul. 

Growing plants and growing leaders requires patience, discipline, passion, and deep listening. My hope is the process of growing a leader is as fulfilling as the harvest. 

 In the table below, the lefthand column describes steps for growing a strong plant.  The righthand column shows how these steps apply to women in leadership. 

Prepare the soil.  
Till the soil, remove the weeds, spread the compost.  

For we female leaders, the first step is always forgiveness. So many of our obstacles come from holding on to self-criticism. When we till the soil we open ourselves up to goodness, to warmth. We can let go of anger and remove unnecessary obstacles.  Compost represents the wisdom of our female ancestors. Compost is the decomposition of organic matter. It is old life turned into available nutrients. We must learnfrom the lives of our elders and use their knowledge and strength to build our plant’s cells, our structure. 
Take time to get to know your seed 
Hold and inspect your seeds in your hand. Feel the power and life potential in your palm 
Developing a strong relationship with yourself is the most important part of being a female leader. Take time to understand who you are and where your passion lies.  Listen to yourself. Find beauty in your seed. And know your own worth. 
Make a plan. Dream Big.  
Put up a trellis. Mark where you want to plant your seeds. Predict how they will grow. Does your leadership plant need space to grow tall towards the sun or room to spread out wide along the ground?  Imagine your tiny seed growing into a luscious plant. Know the power that it holds.  
Observing our behavioral patterns helps us understand our needs.  How often do you need breaks to replenish and stretch in your day?  What kinds of relationships feel fulfilling on your path towards leadership and inner strength?  What are your weaknesses and what challenges might you face?  Set yourself up for success by creating the kind of environment that is best for you.  Don’t be afraid to dream big. Know the power that you hold.   
Companion planting 
Planting specific plants near each other can benefit both plants. Some combinations of plants keep away pests, fix nitrogen in the soil, or provide shade. Ecological diversity is important for a harmonious garden.    
Leadership is about teamwork. Find your female and non-female allies. Rely on others and provide support for others. Let your relationships nourish and inspire you. Work to create solidarity.  Cultivate diversity. Mother nature teaches us that monocultures are not natural and will not sustain themselves. 
Plant your seeds  
With gentleness and gratitude towards the earth, plant your seeds three times their diameter. Your seeds need space to expand their  roots and time to sprout before breaking the soil.  Be sure to take your time, have fun, maybe even sing a little!    
We must be gentle and patient with ourselves. We can’t always be exposed to the harsh sun, we need time to restore our energy and sprout! When we practice compassion with ourselves, we broaden our capacity to be compassionate towards others, a sign of a great leader. 
Sunshine, water, carbon dioxide  
Once your plant has sprouted it will take energy from the sun, water, and carbon from its roots and make sugar! Your plant is an amazing genius! 
Eat, eat, eat! Feed your body, mind, and soul. Find motivation and energy in your environment. Follow your hunger. Stay driven. Soak up the sunshine. 
Mulch around the base of your plant. Find the right pH balance in the soil.  

Once your plant has a sturdy stem, consider mulching around the base of the plant to keep the moisture in the soil and deter weeds.  Also, consider getting your soil tested and seeking out soil amendments that would restore the soil’s balance and provide your plant with what it needs. 
Now that your plant has grown you cannot forget the work you have done thus far. Mulching your plants means creating a solid foundation. Your life and your plas life is unpredictable and surprising. Do what you can to embody the stability you need and maintain your relationship with yourself as you change.  

Leadership is also about seeking balance. You have just experienced a rapid growing period and it is important that you take time for yourself and balance the different parts of life that are important to you. In leadership, it is important to be our full selves. 
Welcome the storm 
Storms will likely knock your plant over, even if it is on a trellis.. Be astonished by the power of nature and trust that once the storm has passed, your plant will rise back up again!   
No matter how great your foundation is, life will always knock you down. Normalize failure and know that you can recover with grace. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Do not let setbacks diminish your confidence. Women leaders are tenacious.  
No matter what kind of plant you are, there comes a time to reap the benefits of your labor and acknowledge the work you have done. 
Celebrate the harvest. Be proud of your achievements and indulge in the deepest joys of your life. Remember that not all fruit looks the same and there is no use in comparing your progress and accomplishments with others. 
Seed Saving.  
If you collect the seeds from your plant and dry them properly there is an opportunity to complete the cycle again or even pass off your seeds to someone else. 
A strong woman leader leads by example and shares her triumphs. Being a leader is about inspiring others to dream big and grow. Women leaders never stop growing.
Qualities of a woman leader Forgiveness, learning, listening to yourself,  inner strength, teamwork, solidarity, compassion, motivation and energy, stability, balance, tenacity, generosity, being proud, growing.

“The tiny seed knew that in order to grow, it needed to be dropped in dirt, covered with darkness, and struggle to reach the light.” 

–Sandra Kring

ALICE TIBBETTS is a student at Bard College at Simon’s Rock.