Why I Love Autumn – About Leadership, Transformation and the Spring In Sight

I used to hate autumn. As a child, this was the time to put on the raincoat and high rubber boots and walk the three kilometers to school and back. The wind would intensify as soon as we would leave the village; the water in the Mureș River was fast and grey; the backpack full of heavy books. The only joy was the prospect of meeting fellow pupils, and, maybe, one day, being allowed to take the same road by bike.

Now, 20 years later, I grasp the autumn in a different perspective. One more year has passed; what have I done with my life for the last 300 and so days? Have I taken any step that would bring me closer to live my life with purpose? How did the energy I spent this year make a difference in people’s lives? What imprints am I leaving behind?

I am sure many of us who dare to take a moment to breathe and glance through the window at the sea of dying leaves outside ask themselves the same questions. This is why I dare to write this column in a slightly different tone than the ones before.

Accepting the winter

For numerous companies founded after the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe, the years 1998–2007 have been years of splendid growth. Summer at its best: money flowing in, markets opening, consumers willing to spend beyond their means. Autumn came abruptly with the fall of the invincible Lehman Brothers in September 2008; for those who hadn’t been wise enough to secure reserves, the winter that followed has wiped their names from history.

The first signs of relative recovery started to show up only this year — even though our political reps in the Czech Republic do their utmost best to keep us in the cold for as long as possible. Yet, mild recovery seems to be in sight for the next year – not the buoyant years prior to 2007, but the new real.

Many leaders matured by decades in just a few years; the merciless economy taught us all we needed to know in order to be ready for the new spring. Yet, there are also managers who haven’t understood the purpose of “winter.” As the small seed that blooms in spring, rejoices in summer, returns to the earth in autumn, and hibernates in winter in order to get energy for the new spring, our companies’ lives are cyclical. We just have no habit of admitting it.

We still act as if we are possessed by a hunger for growth for the sake of growth and empty higher profits. But what is winter is necessary in the life of each company, to make sure it doesn’t completely exhaust its environment and can come up successfully after hibernation? What a scary thought for the managers paid in close connection to the level of growth of the company in a given year.

How does this relate to communication?

Numerous studies show that human resources, people who are there to bring companies’ visions to life, have been exhausted in the process of surviving the last five years. At the beginning, they accepted the effort, hoping it would be temporary. In time, they started to pay the price: health-related issues, relationships falling apart, frustration and a feeling of never-ending tension and overall meaningless.

A study published in June 2013 by the international consultancy Hay Group shows that one in four employees are ready to leave their company within the next two years. Employees point at numerous reasons for their decisions, including their manager’s leadership style and communication skills. Very often they feel they are being left alone in the dark, to do more with less, while no one seems to see the outcome or to care.

Here is where communication comes into place. One of the major trends on our Czech market, and other markets in CEE, is company culture transformation. With the generation swap at the top of numerous local companies, there is an ongoing need for doing things differently. This doesn’t mean that young managers are necessarily better communicators. However, quality internal, external and client communication seem to get deeply rooted in companies’ DNA in this transformation process. And this is a good thing.

And here is where true leaders come into place. The truly successful companies — like Student Agency, Bernard, Linet, Agrofert and many others — are those lead by people who are not afraid to share their personal story, step out of their comfort zone, forget about knowing everything, speak less, listen more and open themselves to the new, to the different, to the vulnerable, to the authentic.

The reason why I now love autumn is because life brought me in a position where I can observe and support such amazing people as they open up and transform themselves and the lives of others around them through communication. By daring to bring their minds and hearts aligned to the table, such leaders create a more sustainable world.

Transformation is already happening; it was the highest time. And spring is in sight, even though it might not appear so obvious now, in November.

THIS TEXT HAS FIRST BEEN PUBLISHED IN THE COLUMN MEDIAPOWER BY LEADERS MAGAZINE ON OCTOBER 8, 2013 http://www.leadersmagazine.cz/2013/12/23/why-i-love-autumn-about-leadership-transformation-and-the-spring-in-sight/#.UuDtUbRNyM8

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The best way to gain, retain, and restore your critical distance as a woman CEO is to have a faithful guide, thought partner, and inspiring challenger by your side. This is what I am for women CEOs. If you are facing major developments in your business or in your career this year, we should talk. Please book or have your assistant book a no-strings-attached free 30-minute CEO exploration call with me; we will get to know each other and I will be thrilled to spot how I could be of your service in 2024 and beyond.
Cristina Muntean
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Let's Talk

The best way to gain, retain, and restore your critical distance as a woman CEO is to have a faithful guide, thought partner, and inspiring challenger by your side. This is what I am for women CEOs. If you are facing major developments in your business or in your career this year, we should talk. Please book or have your assistant book a no-strings-attached free 30-minute CEO exploration call with me; we will get to know each other and I will be thrilled to spot how I could be of your service in 2024 and beyond.