Leadership is most important when the world is upside downHumanities
“Perhaps the most impressive and memorable quality of the leaders we studied was the way they responded to failure... [T]hese leaders put all their energies into their task. They simply don’t think about failure, don’t even use the word." Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus: Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge
Think of the leaders you most admire. I’ll bet that the reason you admire them is not so much for what they accomplished as it is for the challenges and adversities they overcame en route to that accomplishment. We remember George Washington at Valley Forge and crossing the ice-laden Delaware in the middle of a snow storm in the middle of the night to route the British at Trenton, save the revolution and the infant nation.
We remember Florence Nightingale at the Scutari Barrack Hospital; in a letter to her father she wrote of the horrendous conditions that “surely this is the kingdom of hell.” Yet in the next 22 months, working in this kingdom of hell, she defined what it means to be a nurse and established nursing as a real profession and, more than any other person, created a blueprint for the hospital as we know it today.
We remember Martin Luther King writing his famous letter from the Birmingham Jail and Nelson Mandela changing the course of South African history from behind bars.
We remember Steve Jobs returning to a money-losing and demoralized Apple, the company he founded and that had later fired him, to spark one of the most incredible corporate resurgences in business history.
When your world turns upside down there is a natural and understandable tendency to want to hide under the bed. But that is precisely the time when you need to be standing on the table, waving the flag, and pointing the way forward for those who are depending upon you for leadership.