“How the @#*! am I going to get through this?” It’s a question I hear a lot these days—from the leaders I work with and also (admittedly) from the voices in my own head. It’s not the kind of question that generates creative brainstorming and explore-the-possibilities thinking. While it does not feel good in the moment, it’s these situations that build resiliency for the future. All you need is one seed of hope.
With that backdrop, in book club last month, Chris Westbrook led a discussion on Leadership in Turbulent Times by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. In the book, the author presents details of the leadership journeys of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson. She talks about how these four American leaders recognized leadership qualities in themselves and how they showed up as leaders to others. (Check out the portal for Chris’ discussion notes.)
It was interesting to hear about how, while the four presidents’ leadership styles were different, there is a lot of overlap in leadership behaviors and traits such as their storytelling ability, political acumen, empathy, and ability to learn from their own mistakes.
But perhaps what was most eye-opening for me is hearing about how these four presidents each faced major adversity and hardship early in life, such as professional humiliation, loss of loved ones, and health struggles. In a word, they were resilient.
Reflecting on the presidents’ challenges, the discussion naturally turned to the “how the BLEEP are we going to get through this?” question. The pandemic is on everyone’s minds, and it is no wonder any look back at history and the seemingly unbelievable challenges in the past can inspire both fear and awe!
When I work with leaders who are feeling stuck, I invite them to do a little digging. Each of us has overcome something in life, at some point. Taking time to access your success stories allows you to draw on that strength, and move forward—in those moments when the weight of the problem is holding you back. This is our personal reservoir of resilience. It’s what gives us the hope we need to manage the struggle du jour, get clarity, and recast a vision. We all have these seeds of hope, but we don’t all honor and recognize them.
Yeah, exactly! That! That’s the seed of hope. Hold onto it. You got this!