In 22 years of teaching horticultural science, Lee Ivy, professor at North Carolina State University, has only missed five National Collegiate Landscape Competitions.

Farming, peaches and gardening have been in Ivy’s family for generations. Ivy grew up on a mixed use, 10-acre farm with cattle, vegetables and peaches. Although his father was not a full-time farmer, Ivy developed a love of the land. “I was selling peaches off of the back of the truck at 7 years old and I didn’t know it was horticulture,” Ivy says. “Both of my grandfathers had a love of the dirt, and my two little boys have it, too.”

Ivy first competed in the National Collegiate Landscape Competition while he was an undergraduate student at the University of Tennessee and then again as a graduate student at North Carolina State University. As a professor of landscape gardening at Sandhills Community College in North Carolina, Ivy took on the role as adviser for the student competition. When he joined North Carolina State University, NCLC was once again under his purview.

Ivy’s commitment to the NCLC is reflected in his involvement as a student, many years as an adviser, and most recently as a host. Ivy spearheaded North Carolina State’s efforts in hosting the competition last year, which included 800 students and 240 industry representatives. Ivy reflects on education and leadership and shares his advice with Turf.

TURF: What is your style of leadership?

IVY: I think it is important to create buy-in and build consensus. It requires organization in order to have teamwork and it’s helpful to push information out to people. Don’t delegate tasks to others that you are unwilling to do yourself.

TURF: How do you improve your leadership skills?

IVY: I attend conferences that incorporate leadership development classes.

I ask for forgiveness and I hope people are willing to forgive. I also watch others I perceive as good leaders.

TURF: Who are your leadership role models?

IVY: People who are efficient and can get things done. I admire quiet leadership.

TURF: What are your favorite leadership books?

IVY: I admire books about missionaries who lead the cause for the belief in Jesus. I enjoy books about biblical characters and I read the Bible every day. I am also drawn to books about people who overcome adversity. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is a favorite.

TURF: What have you done in a leadership capacity that you are most proud of?

IVY: Being a dad and leading my family. If I am not a good dad, I am not much of man. I am proud of the leadership at North Carolina State and our efforts in hosting the NCLC. As an educator, you have people evaluating you. I hope my students look back on me and say, “I am a better person because I knew professor Ivy.”

TURF: What is your advice to young leaders?

IVY:Be proud of your heritage and where you came from. Meet people from different backgrounds and have positive interactions. Try to find common ground. We can really make a difference when we try to relate to one another.

TURF: In a leadership capacity, where do you see yourself in five years?

IVY: I would like to be a better person in every aspect of my life. I would like to be a better dad and a better adviser. I want to be better at whatever I am doing.

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