Three Leadership Lessons from Braiding Sweetgrass

When I say the word leadership, what comes to mind?

Is it an authoritative figure telling you what to do? Have you ever thought about the perspective of leadership outside of the human experience? Are trees, oceans, or plants leaders in nature?

Braiding Sweetgrass is helping me reshape my perspective on leadership.

Cultivating a Culture of Gratitude

The book is rooted in indigenous wisdom and leadership from Native American tribes. Author Robin Wall Kimmerer reflects on a moment from her childhood when her father would pour a bit of coffee out of his mug into the earth to show thanks.

How often do we show gratitude for our planet for everything it does for us? It provides us with clean air to breathe. Trees intake carbon dioxide and serve as a filtration system. Birds, animals, and plants live in harmony to create a vibrant ecosystem to sustain and support our lives.

In our workplaces or our homes, every person plays a role. Maybe, you are the team leader and play the role of an Eagle by being the team's visionary.

Or you are the nurturer on the team or in your family like a bee, pollinating your team's growth and development.

No matter your role as a leader, it’s your responsibility to cultivate a culture of gratitude. Gratitude for the bees of your team, the birds, and the lions. Every person on your team plays a vital role in a thriving ecosystem. It can’t just be the eagle leading.

Showing gratitude is up to you and your role in the ecosystem. But, the most critical aspect of gratitude is making sure all players in your ecosystem feel appreciated.

Leadership is Rooted in Service & Wisdom

Now that we are showing gratitude for every player in the ecosystem, we can begin serving in our role.

“It says this is what means to be a good leader, to have a vision, and to be generous on behalf of the people….It reminds the whole community that leadership is rooted not in power and authority, but service and wisdom. (Kimmer 112).”

Leadership isn’t about top-down authority and telling people what to do. It’s being self-aware of who you are, your strengths, and how you can contribute to the team's greater good.

It’s sharing wisdom, not telling each other what to think—having collaborative conversations around how each player can work betterc.

For example, when a team goes camping, we have to divide the roles & do our best. Some of us are in charge of collecting wood and starting the fire. Another group is in charge of setting up the campsite. One group is making dinner for the group.

Each team comes together to serve and do their best. The team will have to communicate, hey; we are doing our fire here, so let’s put our tent there. We found this amount of wood, so we can only cook certain items; otherwise, our fire will run out.

It’s constant communication and collaboration for a common goal in your family or at work.

Tieing It All In: Interdependence of Great Teams

What has been a running theme throughout this article? Interdependence.

We can’t have an ecosystem if there are only eagles or bees without plants. Of course, human teams don’t directly correlate to nature. But we can learn from the interdependence of nature for our teams.

If one player on the team doesn’t serve their role, it will affect someone else on the team. They are then creating a domino effect, spiraling down and affecting the common good of the team.

All great teams, especially mother nature, work together in unison and in harmony. Of course, there will be storms, weather, and natural disasters.

But those are the moments where the people left on the team are the most resilient and become even closer.

We can learn in our everyday life from the leadership of mother earth.

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Coach Furtado

Writing about leadership, teamwork, and human development through the lens of sports.