A Leadership Lesson Learned in Nature
Every weekend, my pup Lucy and I head up into the mountains for a hike. Because I live in Utah, I am lucky enough to be in a completely different world in just a few minutes. Both Lucy and I have come to expect our weekend nearby getaway and all it affords us. Time in Nature provides a great deal for me. I reconnect with my spirit and heart, I clear my head and, perhaps the greatest, I listen, without the noise and distraction of the world. This is one area I hope technology doesn't advance – there is something wonderful about stepping into a physical place where technology hasn't overwhelmed.
During our hike, Lucy and I climbed a hill surrounded by aspens and pine trees. I noticed the changes in the season that had emerged. I was able to listen and observe. And I was taught.
As an Executive Leadership Coach, the components of leadership are always on my mind. The variables of what makes a good leader can vary in semantics, but at the core, we all recognize and resonate with what makes a great leader – attributes like trust, excellent communication, empathy, excellent track-record, etc. Aside from these characteristics and traits – and I’ll save my personal belief of these for another post – leadership is also cyclical.
That is the lesson Nature taught me this past weekend.
Our leadership is cyclical in nature. Just as the seasons will always return, the way we expand in and through our leadership will also return, but will hopefully do so in an upward trajectory. If every one of us is a leader, and I believe that we are, then change is inevitable as we lead, just as the seasons will always bring change.
As I hiked, I thought of the changes that had taken place. I've been in these mountains and on these trails every weekend for the last several months. I watched the seasons change the landscape from the melting snow and frozen earth, to plants emerging and spreading bright colors all over the mountains and valleys, to warmer days and nights and finally, to leaves changing from bright greens to reds, yellows, and oranges. The landscape is always beautiful but certainly varies depending on the time of year – the current cycle.
Each cycle or season offers a lesson, one we can take into our leadership.
Fall – a Season for Release
Fall is in full swing here in Utah, which means the days are getting shorter, the air is crisp and certainly holds a chill through the night. Plants are shedding their leaves; colors are changing, animals are preparing to hibernate and a time to harvest the fruits of our labors.
Like fall, our leadership, too, must go through times of shedding and of letting go all while preparing for what comes next and taking time to enjoy the beauty that comes with these changes. We may need to release an expectation about a particular project or person we lead; maybe it's an expectation about ourselves!
It’s the season of leadership that prompts us to release what no longer serves to prepare for something better. It’s a season that asks us to take a moment to observe what is beautiful around what we and those we lead have accomplished; to celebrate our victories. It’s even a season to build up our confidence for times when it may be scarcer.
Winter – a Season for Introspection
As fall wraps up, we are met with winter. In Utah, winter is a wonderland full of snow. There is nothing more peaceful than a snowy night all cuddled up inside – the best place to spend winter, in my opinion. Plants and trees are dormant; animals are resting in hibernation, and the ground is covered in snow. All is still and white.
Like winter, our leadership requires time dedicated to rest, rejuvenation, and reflection. It's a season to reflect on the past and to consider what has worked well and what hasn't. It's a season also to look inward to evaluate how we can emerge a stronger, more effective leader. It's a season to slow down and observe.
Spring – a Season for Growth
With the weather warming up, winter slowly thaws to spring. Spring is beautiful, no matter where you live. It provides a sense of hope and expectation not experienced during the dark, cold months of winter. In the animal kingdom, new babies arrive with their wobbly legs. New plants push up through the frozen, hard dirt, reminding us of renewal and beauty even through challenges. Color returns.
Like spring, our leadership will cycle through times where we feel inexperienced to the new challenge in front of us. It's a season to enlist hope and to create new approaches to old problems. It's a season to stand on our wobbly legs, tackling something different. It's a season to push through the difficulties and emerge resilient and colorful, full of life.
Summer – a Season for Achievement
Finally, spring turns to summer. Utah summers are easily my favorite time of year and the ideal place to experience them. There is a youthful energy dancing around. The days are long, and the nights are warm. There is a plethora of fun to be had, and the harvest of earlier labors begins to be realized. It is the pure joy of childhood.
Like summer, our leadership will have times where we are in our full stride, hitting all our goals as things seem to ease in to success. It's a season of enjoyment for the hard work and effort you and those you lead have put in. It's a season of excitement for the work you do when time seems to fly by. It's a season of realizing the fruits of your labors, a time when you feel you're at the top of your game.
Each season can represent much in our leadership and our personal development, both closely tied together – for we can only lead others as well as we lead in our own lives. Our leadership will go through seasons. Each season is just as necessary and critical to our overall success as the next. We'll have the seasons we love most, and we should relish those times. Yet, there is excellent power in embracing the seasons that challenge us. That is where some of our greatest lessons as leaders are learned.
As capable and valuable leaders, we can be proactive in how we approach the seasons of leadership. When we are in a Season of Achievement, relish and celebrate it, but be responsible enough to consider the next Season of Release to consider what you need to let go of. This lines you up beautifully for a Season of Introspection to see what you can personally do to continue growing as a leader. This will ultimately, if you choose, lead to a Season of Growth, where you implement the findings from release and introspection to become an even better version of yourself; an even better leader. Once attained, you come full circle back to a Season of Achievement.
Nature is one of my greatest guides. She is full of life, yet patiently waits for life. She moves and is in control. She encourages respect. She is quiet and in no hurry, yet all work out just as it should. Following her lead and her lessons, we will become a great leader.
What lessons has Nature taught you? Please share your thoughts!