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The Dark Seasons of Leadership

dark seasons of leadership

No leader is exempt from dark seasons of leadership.  There are only two types of leaders, the ones who have walked through a dark season and the ones who are about to.

That doesn’t sound very inspirational, does it? No matter how strong of a leader you are, consistently great is not realistic. There will be speed bumps and hurdles that create dark periods in our leadership journey.

Darkness can invoke a lot of emotions: fear, loneliness, depression, uncertainty, anxiety, and sadness.  You name it.  It can be downright scary and leave you paralyzed.  Darkness offers no hope.

So, what do we when the lights go out in our leadership world?  Let’s look at four strategies to combat darkness and four certainties to provide comfort in the dark: 

Strategy One:  Open Your Eyes

When our eyes are closed, everything is dark.  We can’t see our surroundings, much less ourselves.  It is only when we open your eyes that we realize it is actually dark in our worlds.   

Pride impedes our ability to open our leadership eyes. Closed eyes black out our vision and the ability to decipher whether it is light or dark.  Open eyes require leaders to be vulnerable. Vulnerability begins with awareness. Awareness that we do not have it all together, awareness that things may not be going as good as you want to believe they are.

The first step in realizing you are in a dark season is to open your eyes and be aware you have a problem. Remember, it is okay not to be okay. Open your eyes and see.

Strategy Two:  Recharge Your Batteries

As the brightness of a flashlight starts to dim, this is a warning sign that the batteries are failing. This is signaling to you in advance that the lights are about to go out.

We fool ourselves into thinking that if we just try harder or only work more hours, we can get the lights back on. That mentality puts us on the leadership treadmill. We keep running and go nowhere. Our human battery just keeps depleting.

Your leadership light is at risk of going out when the low battery sign kicks on. Signs like being tired, irritable, stressed, anxious, or staring at your computer in a complete daze. In a world of pandemics, unrest, supply chain issues, and labor shortages, it’s easy to leave the switch on too long. Your light can only run so long before the source of your energy runs dry.

It has never been more critical for a leader to recharge their batteries, yet so hard to find the time to do so. It helps to overcome darkness when the batteries work, so recharge them.

Strategy Three:  Do Darkness with Others

The dark was pretty scary as a kid. When I was alone in the dark…scared. When I was with others in the dark…not scared. There is security in others.

When we hit dark seasons as leaders, our nature is to isolate. Surrounding ourselves with people during these seasons is critical. What you will find is that others have walked through dark periods as well. You have shared experiences that will normalize what you are walking through. Others have come out on the other side of the season you are in. They can give you the confidence that the leadership leaves are changing colors and a new season is near. Do not do the dark alone.

Strategy Four:  Slow Down

Best thing to do when you experience darkness is to slow down. If you try to operate too fast in darkness, you end up stubbing your toe on the end of the bed. No one wants to experience that pain. You hop around on one foot, go down like a sack of potatoes, and likely say things your children’s innocent ears do not need to hear!

Our ambition is to escape dark seasons as quickly as possible. The sooner we can get away, the better. Things get scary when darkness enters our journey. When we get scared, our bodies go into flight mode. They want to run from the situation.

It’s okay to just slow down sometimes. I probably need to write this one on the chalkboard fifty times as a reminder to myself! When you move slow in the darkness, you can feel your way around and avoid stubbing your leadership toe!

Now that we have identified strategies to deal with dark seasons, here are four certainties we can rest in:

Certainty One:  Storms Run Out of Rain

A good sign a storm is coming is when the sky gets dark. Clouds form and block the sunlight from getting through. Storms can creep up on you fast, without any other sign than sudden darkness.

For leaders, storms can pop up anytime. Things can get dark really quick, then bam! The crisis hits, the unforeseen happens, or your leadership world begins to spiral out of control like a tornado. Country music singer, Gary Allen has a song called Every Storm. There is a great reminder for all of us hidden in the lyrics that says, “Every storm…runs out of rain.” It’s hard to see in the darkness of a storm, but even storms run out of rain.

Certainty Two:  Light Overcomes Darkness

Candles, flashlights, torches, fires, and lightbulbs all produce light. Whenever they produce light, the pitch black of dark is overcome.

Here is a promise for you in your leadership world. No matter what you are walking through, light will always overcome darkness. That light may be found in someone, something, or your sheer will to overcome the darkness.  Either way darkness cannot exist in the presence of light.   

Certainty Three:  A New Season is Coming

I live in Georgia, we have four distinct seasons. That is one of the reasons I love living here. Don’t like 95 degrees and high humidity?  Just wait, Fall is coming. Tired of the cold, lifelessness of winter?  Just wait, Spring is coming.

The same is true for our leadership seasons. There is always a new season around the corner. We just need to have faith the next one is coming. A season with different conditions and circumstances. When we are in that next season, we can look back and appreciate what we went through to get to the new season.

Certainty Four: Remember You Are Not Alone

Experiencing darkness? Know that you are not alone. Everyone experiences dark seasons of leadership. If you think you are alone, try inviting someone to meet you for coffee. Ask them this one question, “Have you ever walked through a season of darkness.” You will quickly find out that darkness is not unique to you.


People do not like darkness.  The leader is responsible for providing a source of light to their people.  If a leader is experiencing darkness, there is no light for others to follow.  We must open our eyes to the darkness, acknowledge it, then deal with it.  Take it head on.  Have confidence in the certainties in an uncertain season. 

Bring others along for the journey as you bring light to the darkness and turn the page on the season.  Light the way. 

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