Situational Excellence

Gerwig 2014-10-06

Are the leaves turning colors in your “neck of the woods?” At the moment, I live in the state of Kentucky (United States) and, here, our leaves are turning colors as the seasons change and we move from summer to fall. For many of you this is your favorite season of the year. It’s a time for football, chili, hot chocolate, pumpkins, sweatshirts and leaf-raking.

Of course the leaves of deciduous trees change color at different times based on a number of factors, upon which I won’t fully elaborate. But the colors typically begin in cooler climates and at higher elevations. So if you live in a mountain town or village at 10,000 feet, you’ll see colors on leaves sooner than your cousins who live down the mountain by the river. Or if you live in Canada (home of famous red maple leaves), you’ll see the leaves turn sooner than your friends who live in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Regardless, in my “neck of the woods” (i.e. geographic location) the leaves are beginning to turn colors. Red, yellow, and orange leaves will soon be on full display. I particularly love to see the colorful leaves of a deciduous tree adjacent to an evergreen tree. The interplay of colors with a backdrop of green is a natural kaleidoscope.

When the leaves start turning, it’s also a sign, a sign of cooler weather. Good or bad, the summer is over and winter, with its cold temperatures, is around the corner. Fashion designers and marketers love the change in seasons because it provides an opportunity to sell us more clothing we don’t really need (after all, doesn’t last year’s sweater still fit?). But whether we truly need a new coat or not, we certainly don’t go into the cooler weather still wearing a bathing suit, t-shirts, and sandals like we did all summer.

Changing seasons means it’s time to change our clothes. Heading from summer to autumn, we pull out and wear jackets and hats. Heading from winter to spring, we put away our coats and look for a lightweight jacket or a long-sleeve t-shirt. We no longer need our winter parka.

In most geographies of the world (with the exception of the region around the equator and a few unique locations), there is a natural pattern of seasonal temperatures and weather conditions. And on top of that, we experience weather variation within a season. For example, one season can see rain, snow, and sunshine. Even one day (especially in the mountains) can see temperatures rise or fall 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

What’s the point? The point is to be prepared…to be prepared to respond to each situation as needed. Great leaders know that people, organizations, and the environments in which they work are ever-changing. It’s important to adapt to the situation around you. World-class leaders know that conditions change because we operate, live, work, and play in a dynamic environment. Being aware of the surroundings and making appropriate adjustments is a key to situational excellence. Using a never-changing style in a changing world will result in mediocre results. Using a leadership style and approach that is based upon your environment is necessary to achieve excellence. In fact, if you want to achieve excellence in every situation, you must vary your tactics (even when your strategy/vision remains constant).

If you live in a geography that experiences seasonal changes, take time as we head into a new season to take an assessment of your leadership skills. Do you lead, serve, and behave in accordance with the season (or the weather conditions of the hour)? Though your values should remain consistent and your strategy rarely changes, your approach needs to take into account the needs of individuals and the organization while continually making micro-adjustments based on ever-changing conditions in which you live, play and work.

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]


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