How do Leaders Handle Adversity?

By |Published On: February 7, 2012|
woman looking at chart in the wall

We talk a lot about leadership, good or even great leaders , what motivates them and the lessons you can take from good or bad leaders. Today I’d like to bring up another equally important area that has yet to be discussed: adversity and leadership.

I have been thinking a lot about it recently. A few recent occurrences have led me to these thoughts.

What do we mean by “handling adversity”?

All companies and leaders are faced with challenging situations from time to time, that’s life. Adversity is the set of strategies and knowledge that leaders put into practice to overcome a specific situation.

Leadership example Super Bowl 2012

Last night was the Super Bowl. There are always winners and losers in sporting events. On a big stage like the Super Bowl, these winners and losers often seem larger than life. Last night the big winner was the New York Giants and their quarterback – Eli Manning. They may have faced adversity much of the season – I think they are the team with the most losses to ever win the Super Bowl. But last night, they overcame any and all adversity and won the biggest game on the biggest stage.

The New England Patriots on the other hand were the losers. A few years ago they seemed like they might be the best football team of all time. They had won multiple Super Bowls. They were led by their defensive minded coach and their confident quarterback, Tom Brady. In fact, many football experts were saying Tom Brady would go down as the greatest quarterback of all time because of the way he led his team through adversity to victory. It seemed the Patriots always believed they would win because that was the confidence Tom Brady, their leader, gave them.

nfl stadium with crowd watching the game

Last night, and the last time the Patriots played in the Super Bowl against the Giants, Tom Brady couldn’t overcome the adversity, he couldn’t lead his team to victory. I certainly wasn’t in the huddle with the team. But I am guessing Mr. Brady is calm, cool and collected in the huddle, even when the game is on the line.

I am guessing, his blood pressure doesn’t spike, his voice doesn’t crack, his volume doesn’t increase (except maybe to overcome the noise made by ravenous football fans). I think the confidence he exudes to his teammates is one of the reasons the Patriots come up on top so often.

Being a leader in a crisis

As leaders, we sometimes face other kinds of adversity than the adversity a football team faces. Last night, my three year old son was bitten in the face by a dog belonging to our good friends.

We were (and are) very concerned about our son. It would have been easy to yell, scream and cry when this happened. I certainly felt all those emotions.

But as the leader of my family, I needed to be the anchor, the true north. I needed all my children and my wife to see that I was confident everything would be okay – even if at times I wasn’t so sure.

In business we face challenges every day. Our employees face these same challenges and need to be confident that our companies will overcome the challenges we face and succeed.  As leaders it is our job to make sure our employees have that confidence.  It is our job to lead our employees to victory even when they think it is unattainable.

This situation made me think that the accumulation of skills, leadership traits and experience have led me to and to react like a leader in any part of my life.

Leadership and volunteering

two men interns looking at a computer I saw an interesting article on leadership and the future of volunteering and I thought this was a great moment to also include this topic today.

Not only have volunteers’ expectations shifted drastically, but the way in which leaders are tackling this issue has also been greatly transformed. We are already seeing the ramifications of these changes.

What has changed?

For some time, association professionals have been struggling with a major issue:  the concept of volunteering and people who volunteer (the lifeblood to every association) are changing.

Associations traditionally are very structured.  They are legal corporations, they are often recognized as not-for-profits by the IRS.  As such, they have traditionally had very specific and clear structures.  They have Boards of Directors, they have Standing Committees, they have a decision making process and “chain of command” that must be followed.

The new challenge is that people of other generations (xers, yers, millenials, etc) question the rules and structure put in place by their predecessors.  They may be willing to volunteer their time but may not be willing to do so following some “archaic” structure they didn’t develop and don’t believe in.

The result?  Fewer volunteers and associations struggling to determine who their next generation of leaders will be.

The leader’s role in volunteering changes

Leaders play an important role in setting the tone and inspiring action when it comes to volunteering. Their attitude and dedication can shape how a group of volunteers works together to accomplish great tasks.

Leaders should be mindful when devising a new volunteering structure that aligns with their company’s mission and objectives while shaking up the conventional committee model.

Let us know what you think about the future of volunteering!

What is your association doing to assure it succeeds and continues to provide value to its members for generations to come? As a leader, what important aspects have you taken into account to benefit both the company and the new generations to come?

Feel free to check the rest of our blog posts about leadership and more.

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