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Leadership Lessons from Landscape Gardener at Ole Miss


9/1/2017

What goes on behind the scenes of the 24-person crew charged with beautifying the 1,000-acre University of Mississippi campus has as much to do with nurturing professional excellence as it does with mowing, planting and pruning.

In his new book, Growing Weeders into Leaders - Leadership Lessons from the Ground Level (Morgan James Publishers, Sept. 5, 2017), Jeff McManus tells the story of growing individuals into a unified team so that both the campus grounds and his team of landscapers could thrive. The transformation he established in the Landscape Services Department at Ole Miss not only led to more efficiency, but more importantly, to buy-in and an ethic of excellence among staff.

Research indicates that the appearance of a campus is a major factor influencing college choice. Knowing this, McManus worked tirelessly to embed a culture of excellence throughout the department. He tapped into the expertise on campus, inviting faculty to speak to his staff about how the landscape affects both individuals on campus and the school’s broader mission. McManus incorporated the value of learning intrinsic to their place of employment and created Landscape University, an internal training and leadership development curriculum to promote high standards of professionalism.

Sowing a variety of leadership advice through down-to-earth stories linked to his everyday experiences, McManus has provided an inspired handbook for leaders at any stage of their development. He shares with readers:

  • How to lay the groundwork for creating a unified vision
  • How to find low-hanging fruit that provides easy wins to build team morale
  • Where the pay-off of cultivating “soft skills” are most reaped
  • How to recognize a leader from a weeder
  • What leadership skills are better modeled than taught
  • Why it’s important to celebrate the harvest


With equal parts humility and pride, McManus tells his own leadership story, sharing candidly his practices that failed and those that hit pay dirt. Readers from every industry will glean new ideas and techniques offered from his leadership lessons.

JEFF MCMANUS has a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape and Ornamental Horticulture from Auburn University and is the recipient of the 2016 Horticulture Alumni of the year. He is also an International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist.

Jeff has been Director of Landscape Services with the University of Mississippi since 2000. Jeff and his team have gained national recognition through Ole Miss winning the National Professional Grounds Maintenance Society Best Maintained Campus twice, and named most beautiful campus by Newsweek in 2011 and the Princeton Review in 2013. His new book, Growing Weeders into Leaders - Leadership Lessons from the Ground Level (Morgan James Publishers, Sept. 5, 2017), focuses on cultivating excellence among staff. He is also the author of Pruning Like a Pro. Learn more at www.jeffmcmanus.com.


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