No one consciously seeks adversity. Oddly, however, confronting fear and uncertainty is what shapes extraordinary leadership.
How can confronting the challenging and unpredictable cause leaders to go from good to great?
And why do some rise to make significant impact for the world around them, while others cause irreparable damage?
It is not the negative challenge that damages – it is the way you respond to it that can make or break your leadership and the impact you cause.
Here are three ways adversity can shape extraordinary leadership.
1. Adversity calls for the “whole leader” to face challenge.
Both your cognitive (competencies) and your emotional (character) skills are called to action as you try to make meaning of the situation and decide how you will respond to it.
Many a leader has fallen because either a character trait has compromised best actions, or a particular competency is not strong enough to execute what needs to be done. In which area do you need to strengthen your own leadership? To begin this self-examination, see How Much Do Others Trust You, which outlines key traits and skills required to build trust and meet challenges effectively.
2. Adversity demands that we bring our best to the front while under pressure.
This is easier said than done. The positive traits with which you regularly lead can quickly become exaggerated and damaging in adverse situations.
For example, under normal conditions, you may enjoy confidence in your opinions while remaining balanced and open to the perspectives of others. However, under pressure, this confidence may turn into a closed-minded dogmatism that does not allow you to consider other alternatives.
Understanding not only how to manage your strengths, but also your tendencies under pressure is important to bringing good responses to bad circumstances. If you are not sure where your own “pressure points” lie, ask a couple of trusted colleagues who have seen you work under pressure. The feedback you receive may make a great difference in your ability to meet the future most effectively.
3. Adversity requires that we learn to make meaning of the new and unexpected.
Our ability to meet difficult circumstances requires that we are able to make meaning of these, and to consider new approaches to solve them. “We cannot solve problems with the same thinking that created them,” quipped Albert Einstein.
This is reflected as we look at Nelson Mandela’s life after his imprisonment of 27 years. The great civil rights leader and former South African president could have incited the country to civil war after being released. However, he saw that reconciliation – not retribution – was what would bring hope and healing to a divided nation. To do this, he had to make meaning of the injustices previously committed, look at a larger and new picture to consider his response, and develop the mindset and approach to meet the challenge.
Warren Bennis, leadership expert and author of On Becoming a Leader once said, “Until you make your life your own, you’re walking in borrowed clothes. Leaders, whatever their field, are made up as much of their experiences as their skills, like everyone else. Unlike everyone else, they use their experiences rather than being used by them.”
Given this, and the potential for you to make even more significant impact through your leadership, how will you choose to meet adversity?
DO OTHERS REALLY TRUST YOU?
Learn the two vital parts to trust and how they can help you become a more highly effective leader.
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Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.