Autumn and Leadership
By Jeff Carrier
Today's blog is written by a special guest author – one of The Joshua Group's consultants, Jeff Carrier. Jeff is a high-energy speaker, teacher, consultant, and coach who specializes in growing leaders through personal development. He has experience in executive leadership roles in both for- and non-profits, as well as Fortune 500 and small business environments. Meet more of our team here!
I like autumn.
Actually, scratch that – I love autumn.
I love the chill in the air, the early morning frost, and the slow-motion explosion of morphing color that takes place in my backyard.
Now, don’t misinterpret me. I really like winter, too, especially when it snows. Spring is nice as well – how could it not be? Everything is new and it fills you with the sense that anything is possible. Summer, well, that’s my least favorite. My DNA says that I’m as Northern European as you can get, so the summers in Georgia often feel (in my opinion, anyway) like straddling the equator.
To be fair, though, autumn had a head start on becoming my favorite season. It was autumn when I was born, it was autumn when I gave my life to Jesus, it was autumn when I had my first date with my wife (before she was my wife). And, yes, you guessed it, we got married in autumn, too.
I also believe that autumn has some of the best holidays. There’s super spooky Halloween with its unlimited candy, Veterans Day where I am reminded that there are so many willing to stand between me and danger, and Thanksgiving, too – the official kickoff of the eating season!
Autumn is, in my book, simply awesome.
But that’s not the end of the list of reasons why autumn is my favorite. This time of year also gives us a gift, something we might not always consciously put together. Autumn brings us the gift of time.
In the natural cycle of the seasons, autumn’s days are shorter and the evenings are longer. The natural tendency of our bodies is to cease the striving of the day as the sun recedes, and because this happens earlier in the autumn season, we tend to shut the day down sooner than the rest of the year.
This, by proxy, grants us more disposable time – a true gift.
Concurrently, there is an anticipation that begins to build. Our moods begin to lighten as the holiday season approaches. Children begin that slow incline toward the euphoria of December and all around us are signs that something wonderful is on its way – it’s just not quite here yet.
Our hearts begin to stir. The reality that “the most wonderful time of the year” is just around the corner truly begins to set in.
But it’s in this anticipation that we face a silent danger – the hustle-bustle rush past the real gift that autumn brings.
Autumn is hard-wired to make us slow down, sit back, and enjoy the show that nature is putting on for us. The leaves change gradually, the color builds incrementally, and even the temperature changes slowly.
The gift of autumn is the whisper it sighs into our ears without a hint of rush – to slow down and enjoy the life going on around us, right this moment.
Autumn teaches us lessons about more than just slowing down though; it also teaches us how to be better leaders, too.
But how exactly can we open our ears (and our hearts) to hear the lessons autumn is trying so desperately to teach us?
Focus On You
The first step on any leadership journey is to lead yourself.
Often, we think this means read that we need to read the right books, set the right goals, and follow the right people. Don’t get me wrong; all of these are great and necessary components to beginning your leadership journey, but they are secondary to starting from a place of wholeness.
Autumn does something remarkable by inviting you to slow down and dwell in the now. My advice? Graciously accept the invitation.
Our performance mindset will always argue that we don't have the time to do so, but deep in your heart, you know it’s essential. (Lest we forget the infamous phrase, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”).
Accept the invitation of the season to spend time in reflection, solitude, and participation in activities that allow you to put the hold on your hurry.
Your mind will open to all the possibilities around you.
Focus on Relationships
As leaders, we spend a great deal of our time looking for the right results – planning, measuring, and refining.
Again, these are often all necessary essentials if we are going to be effective in our roles. However, these results are not the goal of true leadership. They are simply the by-product of the true goal – helping people grow.
Autumn, and the measured slowness it brings, naturally creates an opportunity for us to simmer down, hit pause, and actually relate to our teams. It’s a time to remind ourselves that they are the resource, not the vehicle used to produce the resource.
Take time to interact with your people, all without agenda or expectation. Invest time in deepening your knowledge and understanding of who they are, what their hopes and dreams might be, and how you can help them become the people they were always meant to be.
If the adage that “they won’t care what you know till they know that you care” is true, then autumn is the perfect opportunity to meaningfully slow down to the point where your team can tell how much you truly care.
Focus on Outsiders
In Chuck’s last post, he talked about oxytocin and its relationship to the act of selfless behavior.
This is essential to our mental health and acuity. So much so that our brains feed it to us in response to selfless personal interactions – interactions without expectation of a return or interactions based solely on what you can give over what you can get.
In our resting state, most of our interactions are the opposite and actually lead us to the other brain chemical – cortisol. That’s the stress hormone that makes you unhealthy and leads to all sorts of problems.
Instinctively, we all know this truth, but the opportunity to practice it comes and goes without action most of the time.
Here again, autumn comes to the rescue.
Autumn is such a social time that we naturally tend to gather together for conversations, parties, and of course, delicious meals.
Its byproduct is that the outsiders stand out—in fact, they are often literally on the “outside” of the circle, the party, or the table. Fortunately, autumn is also a time where it may be easiest to invite them into the circle, or as is sometimes necessary, for us to go and join them in their solitude.
This has always been a risky endeavor; it was in grade school and continues all the way into adulthood. It’s as if we still subconsciously think we will get stuck out there, frozen on the fringe with them if we reach out to try to bring them in.
As leaders, we know others follow us. This may present the best opportunity we have for genuine leadership. It shows courage, compassion, and most of all, character. It does more than any other thing to earn trust and build truly cohesive teams. And the benefit extends far beyond just the participants. It makes us better and stronger as people and as leaders.
Autumn – A Time to Slow Down, A Time to Focus on Leadership
The autumn season—I do love it, so.
By slowing down, opening up, and listening to the quiet messages autumn brings, we can learn so much—as people and as leaders.
Here’s hoping that your autumn is both memorable, fruitful, and lacking an emphasis on rush—thanks for letting us share this journey with you!