According to the calendar, it is May. And, May generally is a time of transition – end of a school year, graduations (high school or college), weddings may be in the air, and people are beginning to thing about a summer vacation or recreational activity. For some the weather is finally starting to feel like the grip of winter is leaving and you can transition from indoor to outdoor activities. So, there are lots of things that are vying for our attention.
May is also a time where your leadership skills may be challenged, dusted off, or reach a new level. Because May is a transitional month, you may have to rely on your personal skills to help you through the transition. If you are graduating, you may be transitioning to a new job. If you are in academia – you may be preparing for a sabbatical or a summer research push. If you are industry, you may be thinking about summer field work, manpower issues, or interns. You may also be facing personal life changes moving from a single person to a married one. Transitions imply change – and successfully navigating change requires good leadership.
Even if you are not facing a significant transition – chances are there is someone close to you who is. Thus, you may be called on to mentor that person. Mentoring requires good leadership.
May then is a great time to think about your leadership in transition. What are you specifically doing to improve your leadership skills? What goals did you set for yourself at the beginning of the year? How are you progressing on those goals? Have you grown as a leader? These are questions you may want to take a bit of time to think about.
On May 3 – I had a chance to sit in on a graduation ceremony at two year college, which led me to think about these questions. And, I also began to think about how I personally could make an impact as a leader. What actions – not just thoughts or words – could I do to bring about the change that I wanted to see? In that graduation ceremony, I noted a number of things. One was demographics – while there were some significant positives – the number of older students, the number of students in general and the support group present – the demographics were not what the should have been. The group should have been even more diverse. This means there is still work to do – and we as leaders need to do something – to see real change.
Second – was the concern that each and every individual there was facing a transition. Some where going straight to the workforce. Some moving on to work on higher level degrees. But, the fundamental question was – were they truly prepared? As leaders, it is incumbent on us to help, encourage and mentor individuals through these significant transitions. We have to be the role models, and the support groups.
Third – was the meaning of this transition. For some of the students, this was just a brief stepping stone or a mile marker. But, for others it was a sign of achievement, sign of determination, a huge accomplishment. I saw graduates that were the first in their families to ever receive a degree. For one student, it took 14 years to get her Associates. She took one or two classes at a time – got her girls through their Bachelors before she finished her Associates. She is a role model for the next generation. Each story behind the graduate is different. Each spark that drove that particular individual was different. But each one had someone behind them that said – you can do it. As leaders – we need to spread that spark a bit more. We need to think about those little conversations that provide the encouragement. You never know if it is the one thing that gets that individual over the hump and help them achieve.
Leadership is not just a hypothetical topic in a book. It is not words on paper. It is not a speech. It is a push, a prod or an extra fifteen minutes. It is a practice. It is action.
So, as you plan your summer – think about what actions you as a leader can take to help the person next to you.