On Leadership, Ingenuity and Sunflowers

Sunflower Field

Crissinger Dairy located north of Harrisburg, PA USA has awakened local residents, visitors, and passersby with a 50-acre sunflower patch.

The patch wasn’t intentional. It was born in the moment.

Making Hay with Sunflowers

Brothers Joshua and Nathan (both in their 20’s) were faced with 50 barren acres after harvesting one of their traditional crops (corn, soy, alfalfa and wheat). In order to find some quick cover for the barren 50-acre lot, they turned to birdseed hoping something would grow.

  • The field awakens people to the moment!
  • Drivers pull off the side of the road.
  • They walk through the field.
  • They take pictures.

The little farm has become a tourist attraction with set-aside parking and traffic directors.

Leadership Lessons from Sunflowers

There are so many lessons in this story.

Here are just a few…

  1. The unusual literally snaps us to attention. I recently read Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and while I knew autopilot was our prevalent MO, I had no idea just how unconscious we generally are. Moments of novelty tend to awaken us to more conscious thought processes (yet there’s still an insidious tendency to fall back into autopilot and unconscious deliberation). What’s amazing about the sunflower field is that it snaps people to attention and draws them in—keeping them aroused, consciously engaged and creatively enamored for an extended period of time.
  2. Too often, we miss the little things that can unlock joy, fascination, happiness and wonder. The opportunity to see and experience the field—a bright, rolling, gold, sunny burst that goes on as far as the eye can see—is priceless. If the farmers were paid based on people’s opportunities to experience joy (however brief), they would be rich.
  3. Sometimes it pays to just throw caution to the wind (or seed to the field). Whether you want to describe the event as discontinuous change, radical innovation, system disruption, or some other equally impressive combination that could help title a best-selling business book, it was an accident or a folly. Two fellows threw caution to the wind and took a risk—and a thing of beauty, wonder, and profit emerged. Turns out the sunflowers are a great cash crop and have supplied many local retailers and florists with beautiful bunches that bring the magic home again.

Challenge Questions:

The leadership lessons that parallel those above are our challenges.

  • How do we wake up, energize and enliven people? What do we need to bring into the world of work to make people want to get out of their comfort zones, experience, experiment and spend time?
  • In today’s fast-paced environment that challenges people’s ability to balance work and life, how often do you stop to smell the roses (or gaze at the sunflowers)? We miss countless opportunities to experience joy, wonder, amazement and satisfaction day-by-day, moment-by-moment. As a leader, how do you stay mindful of the wonder of the moment? How do you help your organization do the same?
  • What can you do today, tomorrow, and next month to throw caution to the wind, allow folly to have its way, and experience the marvels that can emerge?

Do it! More importantly, let me know how you did. I would love to hear your story!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Rosaria Hawkins
Rosaria (Ria) Hawkins, PhDis President of Take Charge Consultants
She helps organizations build mindful strategies to ensure long-term success
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Image Sources: vishvasandvidya.files.wordpress.com


2 responses to “On Leadership, Ingenuity and Sunflowers

  1. Beautiful article/post. Thank You. Your phrase of “…an insidious tendency to fall back into autopilot and unconscious deliberation” is so spot-on. Your writing has reminded me of the importance of my work. Thank you for that as well.


    • Thanks, Jeff, for your kind words. I had a chance to spend a few minutes on your site and it looks like we share similar fews of leadership. Nice to have met you! Ria


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