[February 28, 2015] The value of struggle on an individual leader is well known. It helps make us who we are; more resilient, confident, and adaptable. Our family, mentors, coaches, and teachers can give you plenty advice and encouragement but there is one thing none can do for you. They can’t give you adversity.
People cannot create those real circumstances, those things that unexpectedly suddenly appear that challenge us and provide invaluable experiences that push us to be better or to fail. I have a friend in his 70s who was fond of saying he had graduated from the “school of hard knocks”. He had no formal education but was both a successful businessman and politician. He once told me his success came from the personal struggles of his childhood in Vietnam during the war, his narrow escape from communist Vietnam, learning English as an adult, three failed businesses, and a lost election. No one could have pushed him into these circumstances – only fate.
Adversity is the single most important ingredient that distinguishes great leaders from the rest of us. They all have tales of personal struggle that have allowed them to hone their skills and to toughen their outlook. Without it, they would be … mediocre. Whether it was, for example, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or any other great leader, they simply could not be who they were without a lifetime of adversity.
“Adversity … so expect the unexpected and when it hits, hold your head up, don’t look back, forward march. You’ll be surprised at how much strength you have.” – Carol C. Good1
How we react to adversity and how it affects us is important. Many people cannot adapt to those adverse circumstances because it will destroy their ability as a leader. There are many self-help books and expensive programs on how to overcome adversity and grow as a person. While these are worthwhile, they cannot substitute for the right mental toughness required to prevail over it.
The least successful leaders are those born or anointed to that position. We’ve all known some of them and experienced their deficiencies that made our lives difficult. The lesson is that while adversity cannot be given to us by others, by surviving it and being strengthened by it can we expect great leadership.
[Don’t forget to “Like” the Leader Maker at our Facebook Page.]