“To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under Heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
Perhaps it’s the crispness in the air or the dwindling hours of daylight, but the onset of fall always seems to impel me to draw inward. It’s the beginning of the seasonal ebb in preparation for the quiet of winter. Just like the seasons, leadership too has its ebb and flow. Psychologists concur that the cycle of highs and lows experienced while living life is natural and a perfectly “normal” emotional weather pattern. I recently gave a keynote where I reflected back on a dormant time in my personal and professional life. No matter how much I tried to get things growing, it just didn’t happen. It took years of being in this proverbial valley before the seeds I had planted began to take root and I was able to find a path to higher ground. After the presentation and individual came up to me and thanked me for letting him know he was not alone. He too had been experiencing the seasons of leadership and was grateful for the reassurance that a new season will come in due time.
Personally, I love fall. I’ve never seen it as a loss of anything, but rather a signal of an impending time of pulling back. A time for reflection and rooting with an eye toward a spring emergence in just a few months. The shorter days mean I can come inside early to begin reading or writing, without feeling guilty about failing to take advantage of all the daylight activities that the warmer weather brings. I can be alone. I can reflect. I can recharge for the next few months. I can just be content and thankful while reflecting on what has transpired during the seasons of growth and putting action plans together for in preparation for what I desire to happen next. You can’t do that in the busyness, noise, and heat of growth. But you can during the down times.
In leadership, as in life, there are going to be times of great productivity, growth and bountiful harvests. Times when our business silos are spilling over with the fruits of our labor. And then there are the times when we prepare for the upcoming austerity. Where we need to regenerate and recharge so we can muster the energy needed to spring to life again.
Remember this, a valley is called a valley because you eventually arrive at the lowest point, at which time you can take stock and begin the climb toward the next chapter. Some of the seasons of leadership feel more like an abyss than a valley. But keep the faith, you will climb out of this literal and figurative depression. One of my father’s signature speeches was titled, “The Price of Leadership”. In it, he detailed what you go through in order to hone your leadership skills and character. And believe me, it is not all sunshine and roses. I can remember as a teenager going into my father’s office in our basement and seeing him with his head in his hands. He too was grappling with the seasons of leadership; where you wonder if what you’re doing is making a difference and you struggle with where you need to sow seeds so that you’ll experience growth.
It was a powerful thing for me to see. I got my first glimpse of the highs and lows a leader experiences. My father was the most exuberant, positive, self-motivated individual I had ever met. Yet he too experienced the seasons of leadership. This fall and winter, take some time to recharge. Allow the fields of your life to rest and recover. Spend more time contemplating and listening to the direction of your inner voice. Know that this too shall pass and do your best to be grateful for the quiet of the upcoming seasons. Keep a journal of contentment so you never forget to recognize the many blessings that are coming your way, regardless of their form. There is a purpose for the unfruitful times and we need them just as much as we do the other seasons in our lives. May this truth enable you to fall into a tremendous fall!