The Seasons of Leadership

Just a short distance from my house is new neighborhood. House after ginormous house with immaculate landscaping and well-manicured lawns compels you to envy the luxury of these beautiful homes. They are stunning!

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As wonderful as this neighborhood is, I don’t really enjoy it. At first I thought it was a twinge of jealousy.  Maybe my heart was resisting engaging with something I couldn’t have.  Perhaps a smidge of that is true, but what I discovered was that amidst all the abundance, this neighborhood still feels barren.

In typical fashion, a developer came through and leveled the land of all trees to build street after street, home after home in their place.  What’s left is row upon row of newly constructed perfection sprinkled with budding new growth.  All this newness lacks the shade and protection of the maturity of established trees.  The lack of shade creates a feeling of exposure, an intensity that doesn’t have relief, a striving that doesn’t cease.

Beautifully maintained, perfectly appointed and yet harsh and unrelenting.  There is no relief except to be walled up in one of its grand fortresses.

Contrast that neighborhood with the one across the street – an older subdivision of homes built in the late 80’s. More generous with lot sizes and lush with trees, there is something more peaceful about a morning run or Sunday stroll over here. The houses aren’t quite as pristine, however.  Some are a little more worn, some are getting a face lift, others are embracing the character of a bit of age.

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I think these two pictures portray our seasons of leadership.  Many of us are like the first neighborhood.  We’re in a season of tremendous growth, everything looks beautiful and polished from the outside but when you really live in that neighborhood – when you’re living in the intensity of your season of leadership, all you feel is the unrelenting sun and the lack of adequate shade in which to find relief.  The pace you’re moving at allows you very little time to enjoy being in the walled fortress.  After all, it’s a lot of work to keep up with that fancy landscaping.  It requires a great deal of effort to keep up appearances.  Your leadership is young, thriving but exhausting.

In the second scenario, you’re in a more mature season of leadership.  You’ve done your years of toiling in the scorching sun. You’ve learned to let go of the need for constant perfection.  You’re benefiting from the shade. You’ve found a pace that is sustainable for the long haul.

Here’s the deal…

I’m not suggesting that one of these scenarios – these seasons of leadership – are necessarily right or wrong.  In fact, I’m inclined to believe both are necessary.  I think you have to live and work in the barrenness of the first to appreciate the shade of the second.  For those of you in our 20’s & 30’s, you’re likely in the barren season.  It’s tough.  It’s toiling. You are experiencing some success.  You’re building great things but there’s very little relief.  It’s hard work.

For those of you in your 40’s & 50’s I suspect you’re beginning to enjoy the shade.  You’ve learned what’s more valuable so you can find peace and enjoyment even in the imperfect.

What season of leadership are you in?  What are you learning?

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  • Ronne Rock June 17, 2013  

    So, a few questions – does maturity of leadership only come with age? If so, does that mean that all seasoned leaders are, in fact, mature leaders? And is it impossible for a young leader to be mature? I am in my 50s and am thankful for a road that has been full of twists and turns, potholes and beautiful rest areas. Yes, I am much more keenly aware of what is valuable, and also very comfortable with releasing the reins of leadership so others may grow and shine. But I’ve met others my age (and older) who seem to be stunted, and have seen young leaders who seem to “get it” without walking the long road.

    I know I’ve got so much more to learn. I’d love to know your thoughts.

    • Jenni Catron June 17, 2013  

      Ronne, you bring up a great point. I don’t think that age dictates maturity of leadership. After I posted it I wondered if I should have put the ages in there. I think some leaders never grow beyond the first scenario and others mature to the second quicker. Some of us can keep circling the same cul de sac if we don’t learn from some of our leadership challenges. This conversation probably deserves another post. Thank you for raising the question!

  • Pingback: The Seasons of Leadership | Church Leaders June 17, 2013  
  • Emily Gist June 17, 2013  

    Needed this today Jenni. Thank you. I agree with the previous comment as well – not sure season/maturity of leadership is completely tied to age, although in many cases it probably is. I’m also inclined to think that it is possible to go back into the barren season from the season of shade.