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Personal Mastery: The Silver Linings of a Crisis

The Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu said,

"The evil leader is he who men despise. The good leader is he who men revere. The great leader is he of whom the people say: 'we did it ourselves.' "

It is true that crisis can sometimes bring out the worst in people and a crisis can reveal all the shortcomings and vulnerabilities of an organization that were hidden during the good times. A crisis can tear people and teams apart. We can hunker down, retreat to what we know, and wait for the storm to pass. And yet, hopefully, you've now seen the ways in which a crisis can also bring out the best in people. Organizations can become stronger, more resilient, and more effective on the other side. Tough times can bind people and teams together; we can become more inventive and find new, better ways of doing things that last long after the crisis is over.

A crisis can focus us and our teams on the things that matter. I think one of the silver linings of many crises is that we become less distracted by all the extraneous stuff that shows up in our inbox and on our phones all the time. We remember instead, the essential things, the essentials of connection, kindness, leadership, and problem solving. Great leadership is a catalyst to bring out the best in people. Throughout this newsletter I discussed the role, the characteristics and the tools of leadership. And those lessons of leadership are always the same. It doesn't matter if it's a big organization or small government agency or nonprofit, a very small team of collaborators where you appear among many, or whether you're a boss, the lessons and disciplines of leadership are always the same.

  • First, a leader serves others.
  • Secondly, a leader is a problem solver.

A leader has courage to see the truth, speak the truth, act on the truth and make the tough decisions when required. A leader has character to keep going when the going gets tough. A leader is humble and empathetic. They collaborate with others; they admit what they don't know and where they need help. A leader takes responsibility. They communicate constantly and consistently with care and with candor, about where they are, where they're going, and how they're going to get there. They solve problems. And they see possibilities even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Practicing these characteristics, disciplines and tools will allow you to achieve the highest calling of a leader, you will solve problems and you will unlock potential in others.

In my experience, people always have more potential than they realize, the potential to create, to overcome, to inspire, to problem solve. A leader’s highest calling is to tap into and focus that virtually limitless human potential on the crisis at hand, the problems that must be solved the challenges that must be overcome. Leadership is a catalyst for getting through the bad times so that opportunities can be seized when better times return. Leaders unlock potential in others so that others can do more themselves.

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