I’ve been exploring the area of Leadership in the last several posts. Last month’s article focused on taking Failure and incorporating the lessons learned in moving forward to new successes. Another twist on the topic of failure is the aspect of adversity that failure presents.

Warren G. Bennis & Robert J. Thomas in their HBR article, “Crucibles of Leadership,” HBR, September 2000 identified four (4) essential skills that allow individuals to capture and learn from these adverse experiences. These skills fall on the side of “soft skills” and are often identified as Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ) skills.


These four skills are:
— Ability to engage others in “shared meaning”
— Ability to have a distinctive and compelling voice
— Integrity
— Adaptive Capacity: the ability to grasp context and the ability to persevere

Shared Meaning is a valuable skillset when facing adversity resulting from divergent viewpoints and disparate objectives. An important EQ skill to acknowledge and incorporate in these situations is Awareness, both of one’s own self but also of the social fabric and context in which one is working. Having awareness affords the leader the ability to knit together a vision that allows bridges to be built and diverse viewpoints to be brought together. This “shared meaning” creates the vision and commitment by everyone in the organization to engage in a common purpose that can facilitate leading the organization forward.

Having a Distinctive and Compelling Voice stems from a deep understanding of the values that are drivers in the organizational culture that is faced with conflict and disruption. This, too, is an aspect of Self Awareness: reflecting on one’s own values and drivers and using the Social Skills of relationship-building to know how best to communicate the message that will resonate with the organization, or audience. A side not about being distinctive and compelling is that it must come from a place of authenticity where authenticity is a result of self-awareness.

Needless to say, Integrity is always at the top of leadership skills and it too comes from a place of self-awareness and authenticity. Providing leadership when faced with adversity required that there is a steady hand on the helm and that results from an undying belief and personal demonstration of the values of the organization: integrity at its best.

And finally Adaptive Capacity, is a culmination of the three skills noted above. Having the social skills to understand context; and one’s own self-management skills to discipline oneself for the renewed effort and perseverance required in times of diversity is a critical skill. Seeing the individual demonstrate Adaptive Capacity is the manifestation of leadership skills in the most trying of circumstances.

This summary of these important skills is a reminder that adversity can enhance our own skill sets. As in last month’s article, failure is something that will inevitably occur. It is in how we reflect and learn from the adverse experience that can afford improvement in our leadership skills and our ability to reach new heights and successes.


The triple A’s: Awareness, Authenticity & Appreciation in Leadership


Success is a by-product for the individual who has incorporated the Triple A’s into his/her behavior. Awareness, Authenticity and Appreciation are mere words, but incorporating them into our lives can have a profound impact on way we conduct ourselves and the way we approach our life and business challenges. Each of these qualities are also key EQ (emotional quotient) skills that are so important in the development of successful leaders.

Awareness, or the lack of awareness, impedes our ability to fully address the issues and challenges facing us. We often believe that we have individually surfaced all the issues involved in making a decision. Those who believe in their own prowess of being “aware” are often blind-sided by another perspective or viewpoint that should have been considered. Awareness exists both looking inwardly – being self-aware; and looking outwardly – being socially aware of others.

It is the recognition that being “aware” can afford us the ability to successfully address the business challenges facing us. It is important to catch ourselves particularly when feeling overly confident, or in a highly stressful situation to reflect on whether we have truly uncovered and answered all the questions. Are we truly aware? What else have we missed? Incorporating a strategy to answer these questions can uncover and realize an approach to greater awareness. The result: better decision making and greater success in achieving/ resolving the business challenges facing each of us.

Authenticity is both external and internal in its impact. Implied in being authentic is truthfulness and honesty, to oneself and to those with whom we are dealing with. From an internal perspective, being authentic comes from knowing yourself. Being aware (as noted above) of one’s strengths and weaknesses; and also of the core values that are the motivators and basis for intentions. This knowledge of oneself manifests itself in confidence in making the choices set before each of us.

Being authentic with others is about truthfulness of not only saying what one is going to do but also of carrying through and delivering on the promise. Successful relationships with fellow co-workers, work teams, vendor and client relationships are all driven by being authentic and truthful. However, being authentic in these relationships is not absolute. There are times when following one’s own core values directly conflicts with the core values of the other party. Does that mean one is being inauthentic if one shifts position on a decision? How does one reach resolution and still be authentic?

Nothing in business, or in life, is black and white. Being authentic is a process. Core values are guideposts that must be evaluated in light of the unique circumstances and situations that we find ourselves. Reaching to our value system is just one aspect of decision-making. Being effective however, requires that one is committed to the overall objectives of a given situation or business challenge. It is in defining those objectives where being authentic will play itself out; and where being authentic leads to success.

Appreciation is the third of the triple A’s. Our experiences at any given point in time are the result of a myriad of circumstances and relationships that sequentially occurred to allow that unique experience to happen. It is in that moment that we need to remember, reflect and express thanks to everyone and everything that allowed that moment to happen. This sense of gratitude can unlock enormous new ways of seeing the world around us; in how we interact with those around us; in how we view things: half-empty, or half-full; in how we frame our view of the future. It generated a sense of humility that transcends position and together with Authenticity forms the basis for great leadership.

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