I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.
While the official first day of autumn occurred a couple of weeks ago, it sure hasn't felt like it here in the southeastern Texas coastal area until this past Friday morning. Wherever you are, that first day after the first cold front of autumn comes through bringing with it what seems like the bluest skies of the year, crisp morning breezes, and warm afternoons marks a transition that we can feel deep in our psyche, deep down in our bones, in our very soul.
If spring represents new beginnings, childhood, and rapid growth, and if summer symbolizes youth and exuberance, then autumn represents adulthood, maturity, and harvesting abundance. The changing of any season also reminds us of the impermanence of all things, that change is constant, and that there are cycles to all things.
As leaders we may more often think of business cycles, revenue cycles, change management patterns and cycles, scheduling and supply chain cycles, and the like. As we lead through these inevitabilities, let us not forget the human cycles and transitions that people may be facing in their lives or going through.
This line of thinking can be informed by the distinction between managing and leading. It reminds me of what James Hunter wrote in his powerful book, The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership, (emphasis in the original):
You manage things, you lead people.
As a leader, you manage many resources: budgets and money, time and schedules, materials and supplies, intellectual capital, emails, and the like. I often hear business leaders say, “Our people are our most valuable resource.” The position a person fills is a resource—something you manage; the person is a fellow human being—someone you lead.
This is not merely a play on semantics. Looking at the origin of the words manage and lead provides a more clear understanding. The word manage originates from the Latin manus or ‘hand’ and was originally used in regards to horse-handling and training.
The word lead, on the other hand, finds its origins in the Middle English word leden meaning “to conduct, accompany; bring, take, or guide” and the Old English lǣdan meaning “to go by sea, sail, or travel”—and it is this root word that inspires the name of my company. To be a leader is to be a travel guide of sorts—to lead and be on a journey through the seasons of life with others.
Referring to your people as a ‘resource’ risks dehumanizing them, even if on a subtle level. Your direct reports, management team, little league team, church choir members, and family—all of the people you lead—are people worthy of respect and concern. They are not things, nor are they resources in the strictest sense. They are people on their journey through life and you happen to be accompanying them along the path for this short while.
The position that someone fills is a resource that you manage. The schedule, work assignments, compensation and benefits, required skills and knowledge, and the results produced are the resources. The person, however, is someone very much like you who has dreams, wants to be happy, desires to contribute meaningfully to the world, and wants to love and be loved. They are living through cycles and seasons. And just like you, they can be inspired by great leadership or be demoralized by the inept or callous.
So like Nathaniel Hawthorne, take some time and get outside and get out in the autumn sunshine and reflect on life, your leadership, and those you lead.
What is the essence of your leadership purpose and principle?
As we bask in the warm glow of autumn, consider revisiting your leadership purpose and principles. What drives you as a leader? What values do you hold dear? Autumn reminds us to take stock of what truly matters and align our leadership with those principles.
How can you show up more consistently as your best self each day?
Autumnal sunshine brings clarity and a sense of purpose. Use this clarity to bring your best self to your leadership role every day. Consistency in your actions and demeanor can inspire trust and confidence in your team.
How can you be more open to seeking and receiving feedback on your leadership and its impact on your team culture?
Just as trees shed their leaves in the fall, be open to shedding any ego-driven resistance to feedback. Embrace the opportunity to grow and evolve as a leader by actively seeking and gracefully receiving constructive input.
What words and behaviors can you adjust to boost your leadership effectiveness?
Like the changing colors of autumn leaves, adjust your words and behaviors to better align with your leadership goals. Sometimes, small changes can yield significant results in your effectiveness as a leader.
How can you be more aware of what those you lead may be going through right now?
As the world transforms with the seasons, so do the lives of those you lead. Take the time to listen, empathize, and understand the challenges and transitions your team members may be experiencing. Your leadership can provide much-needed support during their journey.
How can you be the autumnal sunshine for your team?
Just as the autumn sun warms and brightens the world, your leadership can bring light and warmth to your team's environment. Encourage, motivate, and uplift your team members, helping them thrive in both their personal and professional lives.
As we embrace the beauty and symbolism of autumn, let it remind us that leadership is not just about managing resources but about guiding and nurturing people. Be the leader who shines like autumnal sunshine, warming the hearts and souls of those you have the privilege to lead.
Have an amazing journey today!
Alan Mikolaj is a coach and leadership development consultant with 15+ years of experience. He is passionate about helping leaders transform their leadership, their teams, and their organizations. Impactful, professional approach driven by a passion for meaning and purpose, a growth mindset, and a commitment to excellence and service in order to drive change and results.
Alan maintains the ethics and standards of behavior established by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), including the standards regarding confidentiality. You can learn more about them on the ICF website.
Transformational change starts with a conversation!
Alan is on a mission to partner with like-minded leaders who want to make a positive difference in the world.
Schedule your free, one-hour session by clicking here: Discovery Conversation with Alan
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Alan Mikolaj is a a professional, experienced, positive, and passionate speaker, leadership and organizational development consultant, change agent, author, and coach. He holds his Master of Arts degree in Clinical Psychology from Sam Houston State University. He is a certified graduate coach from Coaching Out of the Box and holds his ACC and membership with the International Coaching Federation (ICF).
Free Discovery Conversation!
Impactful change starts with a conversation! Schedule your free, one-hour session by clicking here: Discovery Conversation with Alan
Or call or email: Contact Page
In his third book, A Travel Guide to Leadership, Alan offers you simple, fundamental, and powerful lessons that have the power to transform you, your relationships, and your career.