Steven Snyder’s successful book Leadership and the Art of Struggle offers some great insights into just how good leaders grow through challenge and adversity. What is particularly helpful is that, when struggles in leadership are often difficult to discuss for fear of betraying the confidence of people or of losing or aura around others, processing struggles well actually makes us better leaders. Here are some of Snyder’s insights.
1. Struggle is not a four-letter word. Struggle needs to be embraced and, therefore, connected emotions identified. Ways of responding, even though some overlap, are: proactive reinvention (a fresh perspective); stumble (correcting mistakes); burnout (exhaustion or dismissal); transcending constraint (new strategies and options); mission impossible (resigned to failure); and confronting failure (learning from failure).
2. Adaptive energy. Overcoming fear and negative emotions is necessary to adapt to changing needs when no solution to difficulties seems to be present. Steve Jobs demonstrated this adaptation in his return to Apple as he pushed aside any ego and utilised his self-awareness to increase vision. Decisions need to be made intuitively (with the ‘automatic mind’) and also methodically (with the ‘reflective mind’) and knowing when to use these two thought processes is a key to this self-awareness. Adapting well, though, needs this self-awareness to be contextualised in a growth mindset where the thought processes are developed through practice, persistence and new opportunities. It can also be contextualised through greater attention to one’s environment and past so that feelings can be identified and dealt with. Asking, “How did my efforts contribute to the outcome?” trains us to identify helpful behaviours and provides an example of the reflective mind being preferred to the automatic mind.
Snyder then identifies ‘Adversity’ as the source of ‘Beliefs’ which give rise to ‘Consequences’ and says that these ‘ABCs of Resilience’ show us the need to change wrong beliefs in order to have better consequential outcomes. This thinking really just adopts the long-used technique of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (which has been improved over past decades), but nevertheless helps us to intentionally adapt to our world which is so important when so many leaders experience a loneliness in their own set of struggles.