[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from the recently published book “Real Leaders Don’t Boss” by Ritch Eich, a Thousand Oaks-based management consultant who occassionally contributes commentary to the Business Times.]
By Ritch Eich on April 13, 2012
Reading all the leadership books in the world doesn’t automatically make someone a real leader. Knowing how to lead takes experience and experimentation with different solutions for different situations. After all, no two situations in the workplace will ever be exactly the same, and rapidly increasing changes in the world will ensure that this will continue.
Adversity and failure, too, provide some of the best experiences and the greatest lessons in life. The key, though, is to look at life’s adverse lessons with a positive spin, and approach them with patience rather than panic. Then, you emerge from difficult circumstances with more success and poise, and learn the important lessons of leadership in the process.
Academy Award winner for Best Picture, “The King’s Speech” tells the story of a leader faced with a tremendous crisis of conviction. Trying to overcome a lifelong speech impediment and a timid spirit to answer the call of leadership at the outset of World War II, King George VI of England had to learn trust in others, admit and face his weakness, and persevere to reach a goal.
This kind of adversity can be a great motivator. If, at a job interview, you have ever been asked “What is the biggest failure or the biggest challenge you’ve ever experienced?” you have no doubt been faced with the dilemma of exposing a weakness at the time when you most want to promote your strengths.
The truth is that many people are at their best and do their best work when everything else appears to be at its worst. The lessons of history have taught us that leaders and people in general often emerge from adversity better and more accomplished.
How an individual deals with and emerges from serious challenges, adverse circumstances or failures can often provide an insight into his or her individual capabilities and true persona.
Moreover, among the most fundamental tasks of a leader is to prepare the organization for a crisis, and then be able to function effectively when a crisis occurs. In his book “Managing the Non-Profit Organization,” Peter F. Drucker writes:
“The most important task of an organization’s leader is to anticipate crisis. Perhaps not to avert it, but to anticipate it. To wait until the crisis hits is already abdication. One has to make the organization capable of anticipating the storm, weathering it, and in fact, being ahead of it. That is called innovation, constant renewal.
You cannot prevent a major catastrophe, but you can build an organization that is battle-ready, that has high morale, and also has been through a crisis, knows how to behave, trusts itself, and where people can trust one another.”
• Ritch Eich is the president of Eich Associated, a leadership and marketing firm. This excerpt is reprinted here with permission of the publisher of “Real Leaders Don’t Boss,” Career Press of Pompton Plains, N.J. All rights reserved.