There are leadership lessons are all around us if we just pause and look around for them.
The other day I went for a hike on a local peak where I live. (The picture to the left was taken on my way up.) It was 9:00 AM in the morning and the temperature was already 85 degrees. We’re used to the heat this time of year due to our Indian Summer, but because of the last five years drought, the heat has been particularly hard on our little slice of paradise.
As I hiked, I surveyed the scorched hills and drought stricken plants – there was anguish all around me. Tree leaves were sparse and brown, many of their smaller limbs died in an attempt to save the rest of the tree; the bushes were dehydrated, barely alive and the hiking path was dusty, cracked, and baked. I could actually smell the distress of the dried drought stricken earth.
Yet, periodically I could see a hint of new growth as it struggled with its decision to creep out of the ground – to grow during such harsh times. These spots of hope, of new life, made from struggle got me thinking…..What leadership lessons can we learn from the effects of the drought?
On the parched hill I observed adversity, resilience, opportunities, and hope.
- Adversity is a reality of leadership. As a leader, we’re going to go through some tough times. It doesn’t matter how effective we are, we’re going to face extremely tough days and since we’re the leader, the brunt of the stress falls on us. We must be prepared. If we let the added stress from adversity get to us, it WILL take over and corrupt our ability to lead. Adversity should be viewed as an opportunity. By taking stock in what we have available to us, we can hold firm to what we value, collaborate with others, lean on valued relationships, learn from the multitude of opportunities, and sacrifice the small stuff for the big picture.
- Resilience is a requirement of survival. Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, threats, and significant stress. During times of stress leaders need to lean on their sense of purpose when they analyze situations so they can successfully plot their next move. During times of adversity, we need to choose our response rather than let our emotions choose them for us. During times of hardship we need to remind ourselves to look for self-discovery opportunities as a result of these struggles with loss. Also, we should perform an After Action Review (AAR) by asking ourselves: 1) What did I think was going to happen; 2) What actually happened; 3) What can I/we learn from it. This simple three-step process can yield deep and transformational learning.
- Maintain a hopeful outlook. Maintaining an optimistic outlook enables leaders to expect that good things will happen in our organizations and our careers. We need to visualize what we want rather than worrying about what we fear. Leaders need to look beyond the obvious and open their eyes so they can see the opportunities previously unseen. Leadership requires us to be able to see around corners to prepare for the roller coaster ride of business.
- Have a change management strategy. Having a strategy for change is an ultimate form of leadership accountability. We need to think carefully and critically about every move we make as well as the required talent, resources, and investment it will take. One of the keys to being successful with change is to accept the past, focus on the future, and anticipate what’s coming ahead. Leaders need to remain flexible – instead of changing because you have to, make it a habit to change ahead of the change.
“Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.” – James Belasco