One should not search for an abstract meaning of life. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment.Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning
With the world battling against a pandemic, we’re also fighting against fear and uncertainty. Under these circumstances, it can be hard to find inspiration and have clarity about how to act. And, that’s understandable.
As bleak as the situation may currently seem, a crisis creates the opportunity fo become a better leader. And, that makes me optimistic for the future of business.
Leading Against Adversity
One of the primary characteristics of great leaders is the ability to triumph over adversity. When put in difficult situations, many people start thinking about why it happened and what role, if any, they played in causing it to happen. Great leaders do something different: they focus on how to respond. In short, they focus on solving the problem, rather than being bogged down by focusing on the situation and how it applies to themselves.1
In the face of adversity, great leaders become outward-focused rather than inward-focused.
This outward focus—not making it about themselves—enables them to rouse others in a shared goal and imbues them with qualities that make others want to follow them: being compelling and having integrity.2
Leading With Resilience
No matter how bad things are, you can always make things worse. At the same time, it is often within your power to make them better.Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
In studying leaders, professor Warren Ennis and strategist Robert J. Thomas discovered that great leaders experienced a difficult situation that forced them to change themselves in order to triumph over the adversity. They call these situations crucibles. Ennis and Thomas write:
For the leaders we interviewed, the crucible experience was a trial and a test, a point of deep self-reflection that forced them to question who they were and what mattered to them. It required them to examine their values, question their assumptions, hone their judgment. And, invariably, they emerged from the crucible stronger and more sure of themselves and their purpose—changed in some fundamental way.3
Effective leadership requires being challenged before you can lead others through challenges.
Psychologists call this ability to thrive in the face of adversity resilience. Resilient people don’t experience the difficulty to a lesser degree, they just respond differently.4
One thing that makes people able to respond differently is having a greater sense of purpose—either before or as a result of the problematic situation.
These resilient leaders see greater meaning in their work. They’re on a mission. They have a passionate purpose.
Lead With A Passionate Purpose
If we have our own why of life, we shall get along with almost any how.Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols
Having the resilience that comes with being driven by a purpose is more critical than ever: without purpose, it will be a struggle to lead employees to face a difficult and uncertain environment.
Only when you know this purpose can you cultivate the same passion in others and create change.
To cultivate purpose-driven leadership, organizations must first decide what they stand for and why they exist—their purpose—and what they ultimately want to achieve—their vision.
Strong leadership starts at the top but it doesn’t stay there: having it at all levels of the organization is crucial for success.
Find your purpose. Create your vision. Find people that share the business’s passion. Enable them to lead.
- Joshua D. Margolis and Paul Stoltz, “How to Bounce Back from Adversity,” Harvard Business Review, 2010. ↩
- Marilyn Price-Mitchell, “Adversity and the Creative Mind,” PsychologyToday.com, 2016. ↩
- Warren Bennis and Robert J. Thomas, “Crucibles of Leadership,” Harvard Business Review, 2002. ↩
- Kendra Cherry, “Importance of Resilience,” verywellmind.com, 2017 ↩