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Leadership Growth: Navigating the Four Seasons of Leadership for Lasting Success

Updated: Mar 20, 2023

“The more intentional you are about your leadership growth, the greater your potential for becoming the leader you’re capable of being. Never stop learning.”
John C. Maxwell

It's that time of year when nature transitions from radiating life and abundance to an environment where the cycle of nature is winding down for the Winter. While sitting on my deck overlooking the Black Hills of South Dakota, this season is currently on full display.


I love this time of year! It's marked by the changing of many daily constants. Gone are the days when the air conditioner is running 24/7. No longer are the outdoors an environment you had to prepare to enjoy. I don't have to apply generous amounts of sunscreen and pretend that I'm a camel, franticly hydrating to ensure I survive the heat.


The long, wavey grass is trading its green robes for brown drapes. The green leaves begin to transition to a rainbow wheel kaleidoscope of color as if Bob Ross is painting a personal landscape for me to enjoy. This is the most beautiful time of the year, earning its place at number one, my personal favorite season.


Summer is over, fall is here, and winter is rapidly approaching as the season's change. I have seen that leaders go through seasons, much as the weather does. Have you ever wondered what the seasons of leadership are? You may have heard that leaders need to be flexible, but how can you be flexible when you don't know what season you're in? I'm here to tell you that leadership has four distinct seasons.


As you move through each season, it’s important to remember that they are all necessary and good. The seasons work together in a cycle to continually renew your business and personal life, keeping them strong.

  • Summer - The Building Season

  • Spring - The New Season

  • Fall - The Harvest Season

  • Winter - The Resting Season

During these seasons, you’re focused on building foundations for future success by creating systems, processes, and infrastructure that can be used over time to help develop your team or organization. During these seasons, you should spend time on strategic planning—working out how things will happen moving forward—and building lasting relationships.




 

Summer

Summer is the building season. This is a time to build relationships, build a team, and build momentum. Summer is when you can take the time needed to create your business or life in whatever way works best for you.


Think about it this way: if winter is our resting season (and let's be honest—it's much needed), then summer should be our building season. Time away from work allows us to recharge our batteries and return ready for action!


Water, friends, yard games, and barbecues. I am constantly reminded that the world around me wants to thrive during this time of year. My grass, trees, flower beds, and garden all want to thrive and reach their full potential. However, they can't achieve this goal through pure planning and preparation completed within the "Spring" season. They require careful work and attention as well. I have to control the external sources whose sole purpose is destroying all the growth my lawn is attempting to make. I have weeds, bugs, heat, and a lack of water to combat.


The characteristics of Summer Leaders are elevated levels of adrenaline, focus on organizational development,  success coming naturally, and leads to a sense of invincibility.

During the summer leadership season, you frequently experience exhilaration, vigor, and even a little invincibility. It is difficult even to consider that as a leader, you will eventually have to deal with the chilly, lonely days of winter during the summer. I can think back to specific times in my leadership journey when it was summer, and everything was going well. It was as if I was driving through downtown New York with zero traffic and green lights for as far as the eye could see. The connections were solid. The potential for organizational expansion seemed endless. That's how it feels in the summer!


Tip: Even though the summer season is incredibly thrilling, expecting things to stay that way indefinitely is not feasible and can lead you directly into an organizational trap.


 

Spring

Spring is the season of renewal, growth, and new beginnings. This is the time to start new projects and take advantage of opportunities. It's also an optimistic time when you can expect many positive changes in your life.

It's important to be flexible during this season to take advantage of things as they happen during this time.


Spring is a season of planning and preparing. This season occurs directly after the cold winter. Everything in nature is beginning to wake up. There is a certain electric energy that is tangible in spring. I notice people are happier; most conversations are future-focused and centered around their hopes and dreams for the upcoming months.


During this time of year, opportunities are endless, limited only by time, energy, and resources. Throughout this cycle, there is never a lack of nutrients to feed your planted hopes and dreams.

Professional and Personal growth is simple and easily accomplished when resources are virtually unlimited, and hardships are in the rearview window. Every spring, everyone has the opportunity to utilize the resources available to improve their situation or to rest on their laurels and squander the opportunity. The choice is yours, seize the opportunities before you!

The tip I have found that has worked for me is to plan out my year. Literally, write down all my hopes and dreams for this year.

Some questions I might ask myself: What classes do I wish to take, and why? What financial goal am I working towards? Maybe that's a large purchase, a vacation, or maybe it's starting to save for your golden years. This structure is also something I apply to my professional goals.


The biggest difference between success and failure is community. There has never been and never will be an accomplishment that is achieved without the effort and support of others. Some of the largest human advancements have been made as a team; the Moon Landing, Paved Roads and railways that span the globe, satellite systems that power communication systems, and the creation of weapon systems that have shaped world power; the examples are endless. Yet, so many people are "doing life" alone and without community, limited to only their perspective, drive, influence, and abilities.




 

Fall

Fall is next, a season full of change! We always look forward to the transition into fall, despite how much we cannot wait for the summer. The brutal heat has subsided. The hues are wonderful. I've stopped watering the gardens and lawn. Farewell, lawnmower!

In leadership, as in nature, fall is an excellent time to prepare for winter's impending return. Leaders frequently experience anticipation and pleasure during this season.


Fall is a season of eager anticipation! Anticipation for the holidays, football, a cozy fire, and my personal favorite Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte!


Fall is about reaping what you sow, reflection, and renewal. It's important to remember that you have earned your rewards or lack thereof. When we spend our time wisely, we learn from our experiences and grow stronger from them.


Tip: If leaders only encounter the summer's adrenaline or the winter's darkness, they are unlikely to succeed in the long run. Keeping a helthy reminder of the purpose each season holds can empower positive progression in any season.

Fall is a season of stability and consistency. I recently talked with a leader who has held a senior position within the United States Air Force, serving over 20 years! He told me that although his attention had shifted from his professional growth to assisting others to do the same, he was still extremely motivated and excited about what the future holds! In other words, he was enthusiastic and satisfied. Fall frequently has that feeling.




 

Winter

Winter has finally arrived. During this time, the level of investment into the growth and development of my lawn fades. Beyond shoveling the snow from the sidewalk and driveway, I am in cruise control mode until the spring.


Everything seems to be dead during the winter. It's simple to believe that nothing is left after several months of ice, snow, wind, and darkness. It's lifeless and silent. But it's not. Life is beneath the surface of everything, even when some things become inactive. Winter is the resting season. It’s time to reflect on the past year and plan for the future. It’s time to prepare for next year and enjoy the fruits of your labor.


For leaders, the same holds true. You can feel sad, defeated, unsure, and lacking in both confidence and fresh ideas. However, winter can be crucial in a leader's development. It reminds us of our limitations and dependence, which is something we truly need to be reminded of from time to time.


When I was teaching Airman Leadership School, my friend Garrett Murray would get up at 4 am every morning and run. He did this every day, no matter what weather or conditions we had outside (many days with snow). When I went jogging with him one morning, I asked why he ran so early in the morning and in the worse of conditions– after all, there wasn’t any reason to be up that early unless you were training for something specific like a marathon or triathlon. His answer was simple: “If I run late at night when most people are asleep, or when it's easy, or even when I want to then it doesn’t count as exercise!”

Tip: Hard work outpaces the feelings of low motivation, doubt, and uncertainty.

In other words: he wanted his workouts to count – to mean something beyond just burning calories or getting his heart rate up temporarily. Which is another way of saying, “I want my exercise regimen to feel purposeful. Having a purpose, or even generating some yourself, makes the difference in the harder times. Purpose gives us hope, hope then powers our dreams, and our dreams fuel our purpose. This cycle only works when all three portions are in equal concert with each other.




 

The Seasons of Leadership are intended to be a springboard for your own thinking and discovery. This is just the starting place. The Seasons are intended to help you get deeper into your personal style of leadership and how it impacts your personal and professional life. The various seasons are meant to keep leadership fresh and invigorating both for the good of the people being led and the leader. Think about how this concept can help you, what resonates with you, what sticks out, and how you can integrate these ideas into your life!


 

Want to explore this topic further? Join Lenny Carley and Me in a conversation that spans a lifetime full of seasons and the adventures that laced each one.


 

Until next time! Climb Together!


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