“A kite rises against not with, the wind”
Hamilton Wright Mabie.

Our greatest growth comes from our greatest challenges.

It’s such a simple cliché, but in leadership, it’s worth bearing in mind.

Often events which seem like the biggest impediments to progress, can uncover the most profound development opportunities.

That tough people issue?

That gnarly market problem?

Those poor financial results?

That dismal product launch?

That plan that’s not…well… going according to plan?

Problematic occurrences like these are inevitable in leadership. But the tricky experience is not enough.

A wise leader will look for the lesson in the landmine. Perhaps more importantly, they will see the struggle as a chance to look in the mirror and learn more about themselves, as well as others.

Here are 7 questions to ask when faced with a doozy

  1. Is there a pattern here? Does this situation seem familiar? Have I experienced this issue previously in a slightly different form? Is there anything I can learn and apply from there to here?
  2. What’s the opportunity hidden in the hay stack? What ‘muscles’ is this situation urging me to use? See here for more on how to use the difficulty.
  3. If this was happening to a good friend or colleague, what advice would I offer them? Gaining some distance and objectivity can be helpful when we are too close to our situation to see it clearly.
  4. What is this conundrum teaching me – about myself, those I lead and the world in which I am leading? Extra hint: adopt a compassionate tone when answering this one.
  5. If the issue is related to another person, ask – “what is it I am REALLY finding difficult about their behaviour?” Remember that saying by Carl Jung – “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
  6. What am I contributing to this situation? What’s my part in this problematic play? Angus McLeod’s 51% rule is a pearler in these situations.
  7. What assumptions or sacred cows am I holding on to, that I could potentially challenge?

If you’re having a bad day (or even a bad year), apart from accepting that things not always going to plan is a truly universal experience, look for the insights.

What questions or comments can you add to the list above? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below…