The leader’s highest moments of development usually occur during challenging times.
We don’t like that. We want to read a few leadership books and articles and leave it at that. We don’t want to go through all of the crap that leadership requires us to go through. We want to “play” leader without paying the price.
You show me a great leader (and I’m not talking about titles) and I will show you an individual who has gone through some tough times. And I’m pretty certain that it was in those “tough times” that some of their greatest lessons were learned.
I’ve gone through some tough times, but in no way am I going to be naive enough to think that these learning moments are over.
A couple of years ago I went through one of these experiences. I was working for some very controlling and manipulative “leaders” (and I use that term lightly…) and it was one of the hardest experiences we've ever had to deal with. I’m still learning from that experience, but there are few things I can clearly identify as lessons learned:
1. Follow your gut.
Almost every time I ignore my gut feeling, I regret it. Author Daniel Goleman writes about following your gut instinct and how our brains collect information over a period of time based on good/bad decisions made and life experience in his book, Primal Leadership (A must read!)
2. Surround yourself with good people.
The power of relationships kept me sane during this time. I had friends and family around me who constantly assured me that I wasn’t “nuts”. When I would be told things about myself that didn’t seem quite right, I had good people around me who offered great words of wisdom and helped bring clarity to a cloudy situation.
3. Keep track of your emotions.
Emotions are good, but can also get us in a lot of trouble. Keeping our emotions in check and refusing to respond out of a negative emotion is vital. I can remember as a kid, my dad telling me that I could control my emotions. Of course, I didn't believe him then. I do now.
4. Let your integrity defend you.
This is a hard one. We tend to have an automatic defense mechanism built into us that makes us think we have to let everyone know how innocent we are. I suppose there are times that it’s necessary to react with a public defense, but most of the time it’s best to just walk away and let your integrity shine. I really believe that in the end our integrity will be the greatest form of defense.
I can honestly say that, in the midst of chaos, I learned. A while back, someone asked me if I would make the same decision again. My answer was emphatically “yes”. Not because I enjoyed it, not because it was fun – but because amidst all of the BS and negativity, I grew.
“…whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”
(PS - The "negative" experience was in the southern part of the country - not the north.)