This week, Steven Snyder’s Leadership and the Art of Struggle has offered us some great insights into just how good leaders develop through challenge and adversity. Some final insights follow which will hopefully lead us to embrace our own struggle and to see it as a key to leadership growth.
5. Illuminate blind spots. We have these in the areas of: experience (subconsciously drawing on the past to give confidence in the present which may be misguided); personality (a predisposition to think and act in certain ways); values (a lack of alignment between a leader’s values and those of the organisation), strategy (short-term behaviour and worldview assumptions that create unseen long-term implications) and conflict (attributing motives, perceiving personal rightness and intensifying emotions, all at the expense of others). Overcoming such blind spots needs rigorous and continued discipline.
6. Transcend conflict. Destructive conflict is marked by a breakdown in trust than replaces collaboration with cynicism, anger and hostility. It focuses on proving others wrong but comes from the flawed humanity that sees our insecurities, fears and emotional wounds colour our world. People all strive to create a better reality but do this with different understandings and assumptions. Every person needs to own their contribution to conflict, to release self-anger and past hurts and then to realise that every team member is ultimately flawed. Forgiving and accepting others, too, is part of adopting a new focus and can partly be measured with intentional gestures of kindness and respect.
7. Discover purpose and meaning. Leadership choices are vivid expressions of your own style and identity. Working late, behaving ethically, or procrastinating are some of many choices that are underpinned by values that can be challenged by the tensions that come from struggle. Our options are, in the face of that struggle, to ‘recommit’ to our direction, to ‘pivot’ and make a mid-course direction change, or to ‘leap’ in to a new direction beyond our comfort zone.
Preparing for our future requires building skills but also developing this emotional intelligence for the marathon of effective leadership. This needs personal discipline, but also the intentionality of appreciation and reflection in the midst of struggle to keep us growing and to keep us positive.