“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” ~ Albert Einstein

Nature centers.

Nature refreshes.

Too many miss the opportunity to shed electronics, worries, and stresses and disappear into nature. Nature absorbs. What I mean is nature takes in what weighs on us and provides a perspective of what matters and what survives. Nature has a spirit that resonates in its display and seeps into our soul. From within, our mind clears, and we find our center again.

Nature is powerful in more ways than one. We learn more about ourselves as we explore our natural wonders.

Nature is not always calm, just as life isn’t. Storms test our resolve. Droughts make us examine what is necessary. In time, clouds clear, rain comes, and lessons endure.

I am not alone in these thoughts. We need to tap into what so many before us understood about the empowering force of nature. In many ways, we need the spirit of John Muir again in leadership and life. John Muir, a naturalist, author, environmental philosopher and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States, understood more than most how nature renews us.

­”Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” ~ John Muir from Our National Parks

Renewal – Nature’s Leadership Ways

From a selection of insights from artists, authors, presidents, and other leaders, we get a sense of what nature brings to our leadership capabilities. The list below is just scratching the surface, but it delivers a call for us to tap nature in our leadership craft.

1 – Seed the Potential Within

“There is new life in the soil for every man. There is healing in the trees for tired minds and for our overburdened spirits, there is strength in the hills, if only we will lift up our eyes. Remember that nature is your great restorer.” ~ Calvin Coolidge

As leaders, we have the capability for growth. We need to choose to plant seeds of growth within ourselves and within others. By doing so, we create strength. We may weaken from time to time. As long there is fertile soil inside and nature nearby, we will continue to thrive.

2 – Build Real, Steadfast Character

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

We need to be mindful of our character, always. Character is about substance in what we say and do. Time is too short to act in a flimsy manner or not keep our word. Sunlight will always expose our true headline. We need to lead with character at all times, no matter how challenging the situation.

3 – More than Technology, More than Just Action

“If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.” ~ Lyndon B. Johnson

“What a country chooses to save is what a country chooses to say about itself.” ~ Mollie Beattie, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Technology can produce new wealth. How we use technology is key. Do we use it to exploit and plunder? Do we use it to lift up and understand? What do we choose to save? What do we choose to ignore? From people resources to natural resources, we must protect the dignity and sustainability of both. Leaders leave our places better than before.

4 – Open a Spirit of Creativity and Possibility

“The wilderness holds answers to questions man has not yet learned to ask.” ~ Nancy Newhall, editor and photography critic

Wandering leads to creativity. Understanding nature opens windows to new questions to ask and answers to seek. Hiking opens minds. Nature reveals lessons. Curiosity expands. Creativity renews.

5 – Engage a Literary Presence

“What a joy it is to feel the soft, springy earth under my feet once more, to follow grassy roads that lead to ferny brooks where I can bathe my fingers in a cataract of rippling notes, or to clamber over a stone wall into green fields that tumble and roll and climb into riotous gladness!” ~ Helen Keller, Author and activist

In the presence of nature, we feel anew. In our leadership presence, what feeling do we leave others with? Nature brings out feelings and emotions, as do leaders. What words are used to describe your leadership presence? Are the words harsh? Are they delivered with positive emotions?

Nature taps a feeling inside. A leadership challenge is to inspire people from within.

6 – Tap Strength with Constant Humility

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” ~ Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

“It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility.” ~ Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

Nature shows its strength. In that strength, we recognize humility. Nature also creates a system of growth and care. From humility, strength stirs in others.

As leaders, consistency in our words and actions deliver a strength of message and integrity. Awareness of this strength comes from a healthy sense of humility. When strength comes at the expense of humility, we dominate without a sense of positive purpose. When humility keeps strength in check, we bring out the best in ourselves and others.

7 – Link Practical with Purpose

“Conservation is the application of common sense to the common problems for the common good.” ~ Gifford Pinchot, served as the first chief of the United States Forest Service

Conservation is a partner in growth. We cannot expend all without saving some. A leadership tempo requires maintenance and movement. Within both, we solve problems beyond just a present moment. An eye to the future ensures better solutions today.

8 – Understand Sense of Place and Season

“After that hard winter, one could not get enough of the nimble air. Every morning I wakened with a fresh consciousness that winter was over. There were none of the signs of spring for which I used to watch in Virginia, no budding woods or blooming gardens. There was only—spring itself; the throb of it, the light restlessness, the vital essence of it everywhere: in the sky, in the swift clouds, in the pale sunshine, and in the warm, high wind—rising suddenly, sinking suddenly, impulsive and playful like a big puppy that pawed you and then lay down to be petted. If I had been tossed down blindfold on that red prairie, I should have known that it was spring.” ~ Willa Cather, My Ántonia

Leaders understand their place in a larger history. Leaders sense new seasons unfolding and adapt. Leaders embrace new seasons and do so with compassion and a sense of renewal. Leaders understand the importance of place and the vitality of seasons.

9 – Notice with Empathy

“Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.” ~ Georgia O’Keeffe, Georgia O’Keeffe

Leaders see with an empathetic eye. Leaders hear with an empathetic ear. Leaders act and speak with empathy, solving problems in human ways and designing solutions for a better humanity.

10 – Create a Positive Legacy

“Of all the questions which can come before this nation, short of the actual preservation of its existence in a great war, there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

“We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.” ~ Dakota

“When a man moves away from nature his heart becomes hard.” ~ Lakota

What will stand after we are gone? A question from which a leader must lead.

Nature tests us, and humans test nature. Nature itself is tested. With all these tests, we can become hardened – inside and out. To soften our senses and open our hearts, we need to think about what will stand after our presence is gone. While we are here, we need to embrace nature as a way to refresh the soul of our leadership.

The Nature of Leadership

We are blessed in many ways, and nature shows us these blessings. We fly by, maybe looking below. It is not the same as being on the trails or smelling the pine or dust. We need to tap into the John Muir soul of nature and what it can do to our leadership and life soul.

“Everybody needs beauty…places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike.” ~ John Muir


Photo by Jon Mertz at Smith Rock State Park, Oregon. All rights reserved.