I was having a rather deep conversation with a client discussing leadership styles when I asked a fairly provocative question: “Have you ever hit a ‘rough spot’ in your leadership journey?”
You see, I think all leaders hit “rough spots” from time to time – either things aren’t going well in the office OR at home. In my multi-decade career, I experienced not only a rough spot, but a black hole, where my personal life was none-to-pretty. I believe those issues exuded onto my business life. Frankly, I wasn’t that great of a leader during that time frame. There are many things I did and said that I wish I could rewind the tape and take a mulligan. But it just doesn’t work that way. It is what it is, and you move on, hopefully learning some painful lessons.
For the past several years, I’ve been curious to know if I am crazy or if this is a trend – that other leaders have similarly hit a rough spot or black hole. So when I am chatting with a leader and it feels particularly appropriate, I’ll pop the provocative question.
In this most recent case, my client initially looked at me sideways, and when I explained my theory, he reflected for a good minute or so. He said, “Yeah, although I don’t really tell people because it was a painful time. But I DO take the lessons learned from that time and desperately try NOT to be that person again.”
I have heard some semblance of this answer over the last several years asking over a dozen successful executives. Guess adversity makes you a stronger leader!
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KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF, CSP is a high stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator. She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 20 years. She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.