As leaders, we’re always going to go through difficult times. When we were more junior we had other people to pick us up when we fell down. As a kid it was a parent or a coach who would dust us off and say “Get back out there.” We’ve had bosses who have been helpful when we faced crises.
But now, the higher you are in terms of leadership roles in your organization and the more people you’re leading, the fewer people there are to pick you up and dust you off. You need to be in a position where you can lead yourself out of those difficult situations.
Your team is watching you to see how you behave when you face adversity. Having a leadership maxim to help you motivate yourself and lead yourself through that difficult situation to get to the other side can be a very powerful tool to have.
I’d like to ask: when you fall down, how do you pick yourself back up?
For me my leadership maxim is “But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed, but not defeated.”
That quote is from Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. I read that book when I was in eighth grade. You’re not exactly the most cerebral kind of guy as a 15 or 16-year old boy but I remember reading those words “Man is not made for defeat.” To me, defeat is about giving up. It’s about surrendering. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” That maxim has served me very, very well through some very difficult times in my life.
I’ve relied on it to say “I can’t give up. I can’t be defeated. I need to pick myself up and get back out there.” That maxim drives my behavior.
As you think about motivating and inspiring yourself, what’s your anchor going to be? What’s that situation where you overcame a huge obstacle on your own? Or where you watched somebody else overcome something that was hugely challenging and you really respect the way they got themselves through it?
Do you have a phrase that you always think about when times get tough? That reminder of getting yourself out of that situation is what you need to have now so when you run into the next difficult situation, you can reach out, grab that maxim, find that source of strength, and reorient yourself to moving forward. Your ability to do so is what the members of your team are going to look at and say “Wow! The boss got back up! This was a really tough place to be and look at what they did! That inspires me as member of their team. I’m going to trust that the boss will always get back up and get back out there.”
Finding that maxim that can be that touchstone you can rely upon during difficult situations is going to be a critical aspect of leading yourself. Hopefully, you won’t need it very often, but when you do, you know it’s going to be there for you.
Want to learn more about this topic? How about taking an entire course on it? Check out the video below to learn more about the course and get started. Or you can go directly to the course and start learning the Leadership Maxims method. Please pay no attention to the fact that I look completely stoned in the introductory frame grab for the course. I swear it’s a pretty good video! The entire course is available at lynda.com. Enjoy!
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