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  • Writer's pictureTony Richards

The Leadership Skill Of Handling Adversity

Adversity comes our way.

It comes consistently and relentlessly.

If you know someone who is going through adversity, one book I would recommend is called “Unbroken” by Laura Hillebrand. It tells the story of Louie Zamperini, a former Olympic runner before World War II. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he entered the military as a bombing officer, leading dangerous and low percentage missions in the Pacific. Zamperini was faced with unreal adversity several times during this service and his life. His view of impending adversity was the true, underlying story, as he never saw the challenges as the final chapter of his life, but instead, embraced the challenge because he was prepared for it. He had a remarkable capacity for resiliency, to reframe the situation, then to rise up to meet the challenge. Now, at 90-something, Louie is waiting for this book to be turned into a movie, and one I am anxious to see once it’s made.

Many of my clients come to me for consultation because their performance or their team performance is suffering. As if the adversity or slump they are in can be cured with a magic pill. Adversity is good because it makes you better and stronger. I often encourage clients to “get comfortable with the uncomfortable”, rather than stopping or following the path of least resistance at the first sign of adversity or emotional pain and discomfort.

If you are facing adversity, I would encourage you to stand nose to nose with it, face the fear you have, because the adversity is bringing it to the forefront. See it as a challenge. Do not allow the adversity to bully you as some children do in playground situations. Some of the greatest advances for me in my career have come as a result of the adversity that challenged the essence of who I am. Much like the bully on the playground, standing up to it can cause the adversity to shrink or dissipate (read that as “turn tail”). Sometimes it’s more about the learning and perseverance than the outcome.

How You Might Get Better Prepared

  1. Determine one or more worst-case scenarios in the adversity you are facing. What’s the worst thing that can happen here?

  2. Establish a potential response by thinking backward from the adverse outcome.

  3. Involve someone outside the situation whom you trust for sound thinking and strategy for a potential assessment and action plan.

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