Women in Lawn & Landscape is a column brought to you in partnership with the National Association of Landscape Professionals. This is the first in what will be a bi-monthly column giving a woman’s perspective who is working in the green industry.

Photo courtesy of Claire Goldman

When I was a budding landscape designer, I didn’t understand the value of investing in myself as a leader. I never planned to own a company, lead a team or manage people. I just wanted to make outdoor spaces amazingly beautiful! Turns out the joke’s on me.

Today, I own a design/build company in Auburn, Ala., and I spend more time developing other leaders than designing dreamy landscapes. Nevertheless, I’m grateful to report that I’ve found myself surrounded by incredible individuals, including my husband and, collectively, we’ve built a team that invests in each other every day to elevate the company to new levels.

As a creative person, I’m constantly seeking inspiration. Fortunately, inspiration can be found in every direction. It may be the way a plant grows out of a rock in the woods, the sexy twists of an old crape myrtle’s branches, or a well-placed specimen drawing the eye right where it was intended; inspiring myself just comes naturally. The challenge of leadership is learning to inspire others. In reality, leadership isn’t about you or me, it’s about each person on the team.

Effective leadership naturally motivates and empowers team members to give their best without it feeling like you’re pulling teeth. A cherished client has quietly demonstrated this caliber of leadership for me. He lives in another state, so our rapport has developed primarily over the phone. In fact, we’ve only connected in person six times throughout our four years of collaboration.

Nevertheless, it has proven to be one of the most influential relationships of my life. I noticed that no matter how stressful my day was, interacting with him made me better — not just feel better, but want to be better. He never demands excellence, but after talking to him, I always want to give my best. I sought to identify what it is about him that inspires me so much: he’s kind, positive, encouraging, funny, wise, and he believes in me more than I believe in myself. Just by him being himself, he makes me want to be the best version of myself.

That’s the goal, folks. It may seem effortless, but it takes practice, awareness and accountability to empower the people around you just by being you. It’s a process of self-growth that requires more humility than most of us are comfortable with. But by embracing humility, we gain the best form of power — the power to grow other leaders who value each other and make our little piece of the earth a better place.

Who is holding you accountable as a leader? Are you the kind of person who inspires those around you to be the best version of themselves? Are the people within your circle of influence better people because you are in their lives? Simon Sinek says, “Leadership isn’t about being in charge, it’s about taking care of the people in your charge.” His words resonate with me as I think about our team and their families.

It’s truly an honor and a responsibility to lead a team and not something to be taken for granted. We can lead the people around us in a way that inspires them to lead the people around them. Whether we lead a crew, a division, or a company; showing our teams how much they are valued and appreciated has the power to change our companies one relationship at a time.

Editor’s note: Claire Goldman is an active member of the National Association of Landscape Professionals Women in Landscape Network (powered by Bayer) which provides a forum for industry professionals to support each other’s professional growth.The Network is free to all industry professionals.