Leadership Means Facing Challenges Head-on

Leadership Means Facing Challenges Head-on

Many would say if you’re in the leadership business, you’re also in the business of dealing with adversity. Regardless of where you are in your life and your career, I can promise you one thing; you will consistently be faced with challenges and obstacles along the way. In today’s post I will take a brief look at the beliefs that cause some to succeed where others fail.

Life isn’t easy, it’s not fair, and it’s certain to challenge even the best of leaders. You will face physical, mental, financial, relational, and resource challenges among others. Instead of beating yourself up or giving in, it is critical you develop the ability to learn from setbacks. In a nutshell, dealing with barriers, obstacles, and setbacks requires both attitude and aptitude. So, do you have the skills and perspective to thrive under pressure and to succeed, or will you implode when faced with a challenge?

Sir Edmund Hillary was unsuccessful on three different occasions in his attempt to climb Mt. Everest before his successful summit in 1953. People who lauded the praises of Sir Edmund’s ascent said, “You’ve conquered the mountain,” and Sir Hillary said, “No, I’ve conquered myself.” The bitter experiences of the three failed attempts did not hold back Hillary from a fourth one. With a focused vision, a clarity of purpose, a passionate outlook, and a great team, he pursued his goal and achieved it.

Anyone who has ever launched a new initiative understands the inevitability of running into numerous barriers over the life-cycle of any project.  The difference between those who succeed, and those who fail, is their perspective on how to deal with the barriers they encounter along the way. People often stumble over even the smallest of obstacles, while all too easily considering these routine speed-bumps as rational excuses for their failures.

Setbacks and difficulties are an inevitable part of life. While they will often challenge your skills and temperament, it is those who are willing to spend the time assessing the obstacles as they arise, and who refuse to submit to their various trials who will succeed. The ability to blow through barriers must become a passion if you want to achieve sustainable success in the business world.

I could certainly paint a more complex picture of what it takes to overcome challenges by citing esoteric theories, but the truth of the matter is the only thing required to get beyond barriers is to stop complaining about the challenges and obstacles, and spend your time solving problems & creating outcome based solutions. If my objective is to get to the other side of the wall, I don’t really care if I go over the wall, under the wall, around the wall or through the wall… I just care I get to the other side. While I might spend a bit of time evaluating the most efficient strategy for getting to the other side of said wall, it will ultimately be my focus on the tactical execution of conquering the challenge that will determine my success. A bias toward action is always a better path than falling prey to analysis paralysis. Generally speaking, there are only really two ways to address difficulties:

  1. You can either change the circumstances surrounding the difficulty, or;
  2. Change yourself to better deal with the circumstances or the difficulty itself.

You can deal with difficulties properly and leverage your experience (or better yet the experience of others) to enhance your confidence, or you can deal with them incorrectly and let them seriously damage your confidence, performance and ultimately your reputation. Following are 4 things to consider when setbacks do occur:

  1. Recognize: Be honest enough to acknowledge what has happened. Don’t hide from the reality of the situation at hand. Setbacks happen – don’t be discouraged, learn from them, deal with them, and move on.
  2. Learn: Turn setbacks into development opportunities by asking positive questions such as: What are the positives surrounding this situation? How can I make the most of this situation? What can I learn from it? What are the facts underlying this problem? How can I avoid this situation next time?
  3. Acknowledge: Setbacks are part of life – they happen to everyone. When they happen to you, it’s important to understand you are not being singled out. Don’t take it personally, deal with it, and move on.
  4. Perspective: View setbacks as a challenge to overcome rather than an issue or problem.

Just as a diamond cannot be polished without friction, neither can you fully develop your skills without them being tested by adversity. Use obstacles and failures as an opportunity to polish your skills. I think Winston Churchill said it best when he noted, “The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”


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    Thomas de Ming

    December 27, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    The pessimist is probably closer to the truth, while the optimist get more done (is my reflection)

      Mike Myatt

      December 27, 2012 at 2:21 pm

      Thanks Thomas – my bet is on the optimist as he/she understands how to be discerning without being a skeptic:)

    Skip Prichard

    December 28, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    Mike, I like this summary line: “stop complaining about the challenges and obstacles, and spend your time solving problems.” If we continue to work on ourselves, no matter what we are going through, we will constantly strengthen our resolve.


    December 29, 2012 at 7:42 am

    The definition that I have read, is a perfect definition and I challenge you to find any leader that meets it. Do you know that it is what I sincerely think Mike?

    , who have accomplished a good product that you’re getting a good result, thanks to the comments of the people. It is important to publish in these journals. But I think you are not sure of the veracity of what you’re selling, if only looking for economic results.

      Mike Myatt

      December 29, 2012 at 9:52 am

      Thanks for your comment. Due to the language barrier, it’s difficult for me to respond as I don’t want to misinterpret what you’ve communicated. I can’t honestly tell if we’re agreeing or disagreeing. Either way, thanks for your comments and best wishes.


    December 31, 2012 at 6:21 am

    In all reflective attitude we must distinguish between the reality and the pessimism, the reality is a fact and pessimism is a sensation.Now well reality without self-criticism turns into complacency. Only with continuous self-criticism is advanced


    January 11, 2013 at 10:19 am

    Very nice read. Very motivating.

    […] with three children. This claim teaches us humans that who you are (no matter who) will conquer challenges no matter who you’re with and/or where. Every little thing will help you realize how […]


    March 19, 2013 at 1:09 am

    very well said and inspirational!

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