Leadership in Challenging Times
By Dave Stearns
Wars. Bombings. Adolescent gunmen. Cancer. Earthquakes.
Just pick up the newspaper and you will see that our world is filled with traumatic events. We see people suffering across the globe and next door to us. At times we cry openly for the people involved. But usually we suffer silently with them as we feel hopeless in a world so out of control.
Although these larger-than-life events are heartbreaking, they also remind me of a quote from the author William James: "Treat every person as if their heart is breaking because it probably is." Suffering is not new to the world and no matter how hard we work, it won't end.
It's How We React
Yes, everyone experiences tough times. Everyone hits a barrier and falls from time to time. However, the mark of a leader is how we react to that fall.
- Do we show strength of character or do we crumble?
- Do we find positive from the negative events or are we paralyzed by the enormity of the problem?
- Do we grow or do we wither?
There are many things we can do to demonstrate our leadership skills during our own suffering and to help others during difficult times:
1. Live in Day-tight Compartments
As a ship has compartments that can be sealed to prevent water in one compartment from flooding another, so too do we need to seal off the past and the future. "We cannot live one moment in either of those eternities and to try to do so could ruin both our minds and bodies. We can be content to live the only time we possibly can - today." - Dale Carnegie
2. Keep Busy
Perhaps the easiest way to live in day-tight compartments during a traumatic time is to keep busy. When I look at the people who rebounded quickly from life's challenges, they seem to have one thing in common: they took the day one minute at a time. They prioritized what needed to be done, then went about meeting those goals. They forced the worry about tomorrow into a compartment that wouldn't be opened for several days. George Bernard Shaw said: "The secret of being miserable is to have the leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not."
3. Go a Step Beyond
There's a common saying, "When fate hands you a lemon, make lemonade. It's a wonderful reminder that a number of wonderful solutions have come from traumatic situations."
Volunteering is a wonderful way to stay busy and use your leadership skills to help others. Whether you use your volunteer work as a way to forget what's happening or as a way to make a difference for others, the benefits are invaluable.
Science isn't sure why, but prayer does work. In double-blind research studies involving cancer patients, people who had strangers pray for them lived longer, happier lives than those who didn't have that spiritual backdrop. So, no matter what your religious beliefs, it can only do good to call on a higher power for guidance.
So, the next time you pick up the newspaper and feel your anxiety building, remember to show strength of character, find the positive, and grow.