With a milder than usual winter (here in Dallas at least), Spring is starting to rear her head. It heightens my awareness of the natural laws that govern our physical lives.

The "Law of the Harvest" is easiest to see at work in agriculture. If you plant 40 acres of corn, you will not reap 40 acres of tomatoes.

We understand this with trees and crops, but it's harder to understand in leadership (and in life, for that matter). Times are changing, but one truth about life and leadership remains the same - we reap what we sow.

Spring of Leadership

This is the time to invest in others and work hard on cultivating your team. Your efforts during the spring are a leading indicator of what you will reap in the fall. Do not expect to reap a high-performing team, a strong culture, or a deep talent pool if you have not sown proportionately.

The sowing of spring can be compared to the results of planting an exotic Chinese bamboo seed. When this particular seed is planted and nurtured, it can take up to two years for a sprout to break through the earth. It requires the right watering, sunlight, care, and feeding so it can build a strong root structure and foundation for growth, none of which is visible above ground. However, once it breaks ground, this plant can grow over 100 feet in two weeks! Even though our efforts do not always yield visible results, we must have faith that our investment in our team pays off--initially in terms of building a strong root structure, and ultimately, as a plentiful crop.

Summer of Leadership

This is the time to protect and nurture your investment. Do not wait until the fall reaping to assess how you did. Take a real-time "look back" in the summer of what you could have improved from the spring. Use a simple "Stop, Start and Keep" review of your work. Ask your team:

  • What can we stop doing next year that did not add value?
  • What can we start doing to improve our service or product?
  • What should we keep doing that went well?

Spend the summer integrating what you learned into your team's work processes. The new ideas should become "the way we doing things around here" for the coming season.

Fall of Leadership

Ensure your human and operational systems are ready to reap. In other words, expect good things because of the investment you made in the spring and also prepare your team and your business to handle new levels of production. Fall brings consequences of your work in spring. Again, do not expect to reap what you did not sow. You will either enjoy fruits of your labor or make excuses for why you are not getting the results you hoped for. Excellent leaders let their actions rise above their excuses.

Winter of Leadership

Depending on how hard you worked to build your team during the spring, your winter can feel short or long. Winter is a time for recognition and reflection. Turn your thoughts of appreciation into acts of appreciation for the results your team produced.

Also, plan for next year by looking at data from your fall "crop". Regardless of how you feel about it, the data do not lie. Did people and systems perform as planned? Did you perform as you planned? Invest now to fill any gaps--work on yourself first, then on your team. Pull out the weeds to ensure a healthy spring. Leaders tend to take too short to hire and too long to fire. If your coaching has not yielded positive change, now is the time to make tough decisions about your people and your plans, so you can elevate your leadership later.

Weathering Adversity

Excellent leaders view adversity as a blessing instead of a burden. We do not elevate our leadership in the absence of adversity, rather because of adversity. Adversity helps reveal our true leadership character. Without it we will leave much of our potential untapped.

Seasons dictate a leader's activities, but critical moments define a leader's excellence.