Leadership in adversity – Moving forward in spite of challenges

There are times when life and leadership can feel like a grind, and if, like most of the country you’ve been affected by Cyclone Gabrielle, now might feel like one of those times.

On such occasions you simply have to grit your teeth and get through it, in whatever way you can, whilst adhering as closely as you’re able to the basic principles of WIN WIN - What’s Important Now, What’s Important Next.

I always start by reminding myself that “this too shall pass”. You may be in a state of chaos or uncertainty but it’s not permanent and reminding yourself of the temporary nature of the situation can provide reassurance that you don’t need to dig deep indefinitely.

Secondly, understand that as long as you’re moving forward that is a WIN. It may not be elegant or optimised, but it is progress and ultimately it is helping to move you towards your desired outcome. All leaders will be faced with situations where it doesn’t come together seamlessly or flow effortlessly, that doesn’t make you a failure nor does it make your decisions bad. And that old adage, perfect is the enemy of done is absolutely true. In times of crisis or chaos a minor improvement, that might not be considered optimal can be rectified when you have the time and resources, for now fast decisions and quick action based on the best information at hand, are your goal.

Thirdly, challenge is beneficial and whilst you may not be able to see the gifts in this situation in the moment, in the fullness of time you will have developed skills, strength and muscle memory that will serve you in the future. In his book The Comfort Crisis, Michael Easter reports on a study into the effects of adversity, which found; “Compared to the people who'd been sheltered their entire lives,"the people who'd faced some adversity reported better psychological well-being over the several years of the study”. "They had higher life satisfaction, and fewer psychological and physical symptoms”.

For me these awarenesses allow me to accept the situation and continue moving forward, rather than wasting further energy resenting or lamenting the situation itself.

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