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Note: This is the first blog post in our Season of Leadership series. Look for one about winter here, and keep an eye out for additional posts in 2024. 

Summer's here, and for many people it's a time to relax. Summer can also be an opportune time for self-reflection and personal development, whether you are new to your leadership development journey or a leader who has been in the field for decades.

Many summer activities can contribute to your development as a leader, should you have the time, the funds, and the ability to take a breather from the typical nine-to-five schedule. Here are but some.

Travel:

In this 2015 piece at Fast Company, Bruce Poon Tip, founder of the adventure travel company G Adventures, writes about how travel has shaped his style of management. "Travel opens your mind to think of new possibilities and new ways you can do things," he writes. It provides windows into the ways that other countries and cultures work to achieve a common goal. This exposure to diverse cultures and ways of life invites leaders to creatively apply those learnings to their own growth.

And travel for Poon Tip isn't just giant pool floats and inflatable drink holders. For him, travel pushes boundaries by building tolerance to risk. In writing about the leadership lessons learned from camping in the Sahara or trekking through a jungle, he adds: "I'm always pushing [my company] to be just a bit out of our comfort zone, because I never want us to sit back and stop innovating."

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Outdoor Adventures:

Hiking, camping, mountain biking, rafting: Activities like these not only send you to the cupboard to check the expiration date on last year's bug repellent; they also present opportunities to challenge yourself, share a strategy and vision with others, face your fears, improve your communication, and aim for success. Leading a team or being part of a team in an outdoor setting can develop your teamwork and decision-making skills — and teach you the need for agility.

Two bonuses: Being in nature can enhance your creativity and sense of well-being.

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Volunteering and Community Engagement:

In a recent blog post, Insight Experience's Bethany Bremer wrote about how taking time to engage in acts of service can be rewarding. "Getting out from behind the desk to wash dogs at the local shelter, coach your kid’s soccer team, or offer career advice to college kids," she wrote, "can lead to new connections and ideas that the view of your computer screen never could."

Participating in volunteer work, which a more relaxed summer schedule can often accommodate, is also a good way to develop leadership abilities: It allows for the development or fine-tuning of such skills as empathy and problem-solving. It can also help improve your time management (learning to juggle priorities related to work, family, and volunteering); provide opportunities for mentoring; expand your network opportunities by asking you to step out of your usual work circles and introducing you to people from other fields; and, as Lisa Book writes, get you out of your comfort zone by challenging you to explore new surroundings. And as Bethany notes, often an act of service will provide additional clarity on why we do the work we do, which can be an invigorating reminder.

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Professional Development Opportunities and Leadership Workshops:

Leadership skills training, particularly (but not solely) for emerging leaders, encourages managers and leaders to challenge themselves by learning innovative ways to develop and manage people; identifying the kinds of leaders they want to become (and considering how they want to get there); building self-confidence; and clarifying vision.

If your organization offers leadership development opportunities during the summer, such as workshops or seminars, take advantage of them, particularly if your work pace tends to decelerate during summer months. Such sessions provide networking opportunities and access to experts in your field, and they can deeper your understanding of leadership concepts and skills.

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Moments of Quiet Self-Reflection: 

Summer can be an ideal time for personal growth and introspection. The down time of these summer months are perfect for relaxing and recharging, and maybe simultaneously you can reflect on your leadership goals and your action plan for achieving them.

Cultivate habits that promote this kind of self-reflection — maybe journaling or meditation is your thing, and throw in a hammock if you have one — and be open to continuous learning.

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As author E.B. White once noted, summertime, unfortunately, cannot last forever. But as you embrace the bright, blazing, sun-kissed days of the season while they're here, consider recognizing their leadership development potential. Leadership is a journey — and an adventure — and the summer months can be ripe for taking steps toward new learning.

Just don't forget your sunscreen and shades.

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