Fire and Rain: Leading Through Adversity

handshake-business-meetingIs your C-suite equipped for the challenge? The world has been through the wringer in the past few years. A pandemic, inflation, wars, hurricanes, earthquakes, the Great Resignation—the list of worldly challenges (and their ripple effect on markets across the globe) is nothing short of jaw-dropping.

While it is a widely accepted philosophy that adversity leads to growth, it is oftentimes an unpleasant realization in practice. And yet in those seasons of adversity, certain leadership competencies stand out that highlight what makes certain leaders more effective through life’s challenges and tribulations—a welcomed silver lining after the turbulent past few years.

The question is, what is it that sets a quality leader apart from others? And most importantly, how can you tell that someone is suited to lead in adversity before the tough times strike?

Traits of a Good Leader

Everyone has their favorite characteristics of a good leader. Intuition, wisdom, courage, and compassion are just a few of the attributes that make one capable of operating in a position of authority.

However, when it comes to leading through adversity, certain essential elements come to mind. Here are a few of the most important traits to look for as signs that someone can lead through adversity.

Good Leaders Must Be Passionate

Passion lies at the heart of leadership. While you want an emotionally stable individual who can remain cool, calm, and collected in a calamity, you don’t want a robot leading your company.

It’s also important to realize what “passion” means in this context. Guy Arnold of Slow Selling offers an excellent definition of passion in business when he says it involves remaining “enthusiastic and committed to what you are doing, whether you reach your goals or not.” Having passion for people cannot be imitated, it has to be authentic. As a leader, inspiration is required when leading through adversity, and if your teams cannot sense your passion, your leadership impact and outcome will fall short of expectations.

Writing for the YEC, Eugene Gold adds that “doing what you love” doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t feel like work, either. In fact, being passionate about something often leads to working harder and investing more in it.

To pressure-test your existing leaderships’ passion, consider the following:

  • Your leadership’s interpersonal sensitivity could be a key indicator of their level of passion.
  • Are you aware of what sparks and douses fires within your organization? You need to be.
  • To succeed in adversity, leaders must be genuinely passionate about guiding their enterprises toward success, no matter how much work it takes or how quickly they arrive at that goal.

Good Leaders Must Be Resilient

Resilience is an obvious one here, yet sometimes the most tricky to identify in a hiring process. If you want to lead an organization through a difficult period, you have to be able to take a hit and keep on going.

A quality leader can’t operate with a “make or break” mentality. They must have a deep sense of endurance. They need to be opportunistic in success and resourceful in defeat. They must learn from their mistakes and not rest on their laurels.

Good Leaders Must Have Vision

Finally, in times of adversity a leader must be able to dig deeper than shallow end goals and self-centered mindsets. Historically, executives who focus on their own bailouts and golden parachutes tend to be on the receiving end of scathing criticism—and with good reason, too.

Strong leaders must be able to look past themselves. They must have the desire to serve a greater purpose than their own advancement. They must be able to maintain a healthy perspective of everyone else and look beyond short-term troubles as they make decisions.

Leaders with vision tend to lead in the direction of a better future versus leaders who lack vision who are often reduced to reacting indecisively without inspiration.

Finding Strong Leaders in Tough Times

The mark of a strong leader is one who can be a good coach, scorekeeper, and translator while facing and leading through tough moments. As Helen Keller says, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

Leaders who have overcome adversity are typically resilient, passionate, and focused on the greater good which requires a multi-dynamic approach with multiple methods of assessment. That’s where working with an executive recruiter like our team at Stanton Chase can help. Our networks, recruitment tools, and overall experience gives us an advantage when hunting for high-quality executive talent.

It is possible to find a strong leader if you’re able to identify and unpack the right character traits (or if you work with an executive recruiter who can help you do so). It’s worth the upfront investment, too. That way, when adversity strikes, you can rest in the fact that your C-suite is fully stocked with talent that knows how to thrive, even when times are tough and the pressure is on.

Written by Al Smith Jr.

Stanton Chase

Stanton Chase

Established in 1990, Stanton Chase is a global executive search firm that partners with leading businesses to assess and acquire top executive leadership talent to drive breakthrough performance. We operate through focused practice groups, each led by a global practice team leader. We are everywhere in the world our clients need us to be, so we can offer both global perspective and local insight.

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