There are two things I want to mention before I explore this week’s leadership truth. First, my team tells me these Leading Thoughts articles of mine have been too long. They are right. From now on, they’ll be no more than 400-500 words. Promise. Second, I’m pretty exited about the good our new leadership courses are doing in the lives of some leaders I know. You can check these courses out here.

So, onward. I have a dear friend who is in turn close friends with an older man we have both known for many years. Let’s call this older man Joseph. My good friend has been deeply impacted by Joseph and pretty much reveres him. I completely understand. Joseph has been a profound influence upon my friend’s life.

Yet we have each had vastly different experiences with Joseph. Not long ago, I found myself saying to my buddy, “You know, my Joseph isn’t your Joseph. When I knew Joseph he wasn’t the valiant, high impact man you love. He was cowardly and troubled and unwise. I’m glad he impacted your life, but I’ll say it again: Your Joseph isn’t my Joseph.”

Trust me, there is no tension over this between my close friend and me. He understands completely.

Our experience of the “two Josephs” has taught me an important lesson. We all live through seasons and we are often very different people in these seasons. I don’t mean seasons of the year or stage of life seasons. I mean seasons conditioned by what we know and what we don’t, our character level, the influence of folks around us, and a dozen other facts. I’m talking about seasons defined by the condition of our souls. Knowing that these exist and knowing how much we differ from season to season can make us better people and better leaders.

For example, this knowledge should make us patient. If I work for you, you can know that I’m not yet what I’m going to be. Don’t rigidly lock me in your mind as what I am in a single season of life. I’ll change. I’ll grow. I’ll improve. Help me. You’ll be a better leader if you view your task as helping give birth to a new and improved Stephen Mansfield. If you merely judge me for what I am at one time, you’ll become disillusioned with me, and you won’t get the best out of me. This isn’t leadership.

Realizing we all live through progressions of seasons also helps us forgive. If Susie hurt me five years ago, and if I believe that the only Susie that will ever exist is the offending Susie, then I’ll always be angry with her and forever distance myself. However, if I accept that Susie in one season of her life isn’t the only Susie possible, then change can happen—in Susie and in me.

Finally, realizing that life is a series of seasons is the beginning of one of the great arts of living: discerning the seasons of our life. We should know what season we are in at any time. We should pray for ever more fruitful seasons. We should live beyond the limited seasons we have known. We should always check in with our seasonal GPS. This leads to richer, wiser living—and leading.

That’s it. Have a great weekend. And do check out those courses I mentioned.