Overcoming Adversity: The Right Leadership Mindset

When faced with a setback or crisis, do you have the right leadership mindset for overcoming adversity?

In my last blog post, I outlined three steps leaders can take to defeat obstacles, manage crises and conquer setbacks, suggested by Ryan Holiday, in his book, The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumphs (Portfolio/Penguin, 2014).

You know from your own experience that when you have a rational perception of a situation, it’s put into proper perspective. A useful perspective of a setback is one that doesn’t focus exclusively on negative emotions, but looks at the facts. A leader’s healthy viewpoint has logic and a sense of discernment to see things as they really are, not what they may appear to be. There are three simple steps to right your mindset.

  1. Remain calm. Sometimes this is more easily said than done, but it’s crucial. Composure not only helps with clarity, it has a positive effect on others. Worry only feeds on itself, and then it feeds on the leader. Redirect distracting thoughts to build the strongest mental positions. A leader’s thoughts must be stable and reliable. This takes discipline, but it can be learned, especially with the help of a seasoned coach.
  2. Frame the adversity accurately. Correct decisions can’t be made if the understanding of the issue is flawed. Gather data, other perspectives, and root causes to get the facts and the most accurate picture of the problem. Wise leaders make this a practice, because without these prerequisites, no decisions or plan will be effective enough.
  3. Make the situation as manageable as possible. A leader who breaks a crisis down into workable chunks finds the most effective solutions, fixing simpler things, one at a time. This permits even small successes to appear larger than the trial itself, which is a positive perspective. Reevaluate after each chunk is dealt with. A day-by-day approach will keep emotions, tactics, and activities in check. Focus on today: tomorrow will be addressed tomorrow.

With a positive outlook, the entire challenge is seen as an opportunity to learn, correct, prevent, and get better. Failure is not final, but a step to the next success. Every leader fails. Great leaders don’t let failure take them down.

Author Holiday encourages leaders to allow the trial to push them to be something greater, to grow their capabilities to think around roadblocks, and defeat things most people deem undefeatable.  Let setbacks create a champion in you.  In a sense, this ends up being more important than the trial itself. The trial is simply an advantage to be used by a crafty leader. This is perhaps the toughest mindset to adopt, but invaluable to do so.

What do you think? Are you able to remain in the right leadership mindset when faced with adversity? I’d love to hear about your experiences.  I can be reached here and on LinkedIn.