Yeah, seemingly a bit off-topic from this blog, but I thought I’d share it just the same because no matter what you do in life, there are always opportunities to both learn and teach leadership. I’m currently about halfway through this excellent leadership book by Col. Lee Ellis, USAF (ret.). It’s a fascinating story of his days in the “Hanoi Hilton” POW camp during the Vietnam War, and the subsequent leadership lessons he learned while incarcerated.
I purchased this book two days ago, and have had a very hard time putting it down. Not only is Lee Ellis’ story of being a POW fascinating, but his leadership lessons are just about the most pointed and frankly the best I’ve read (as a longtime technical manager, I’ve attended several leadership seminars and have read many leadership books). Take, for instance, his lesson on resiliency. Here’s an excerpt from the book:
“Authentic leaders know that life is difficult. They expect to get knocked down, and they have the proper attitude and outlook to persevere. You have a choice about how you will respond to difficulties. Confront the brutal realities of your situation, but never give up hope. Develop your plan, connect with your support team, and bounce back.”
That statement hit me like a ton of bricks! While it was more of affirmation lesson for me, that pointed statement distilled down a concept that I have always felt to be a tenet of great leaders: They bounce back by never quitting, and calling upon the support they can garner to get the job done.
I look at my own experience as a music ministry leader at my church. When I first started, there were lots of naysayers; in fact, there were some that quite plainly and rudely said that my newly-founded group wouldn’t last more than six months. But here we are, 12 years later, and growing stronger each year. When I first heard that feedback, it admittedly depressed me. But I had a vision for the group that extended far beyond the limited perspective of the doubters and detractors, and I stuck to my principles, picked myself up, and fought through my own fear of failing. We now have a dedicated core group of adults and teens who come week in and week out; making their participation in the ministry a priority in their lives. We’ve even had a few of our younger members return to the group after moving away to go to college!
You see, that wasn’t just me doing the leading, but making sure that everyone – adults and teens alike – practiced leadership among our group and with the community at large. That was my vision. I knew that though I have a fairly “out-there and in-your-face” personality, that it couldn’t be just me that would make our group successful. It would have to be a collective effort founded on the dedication and inspiration of our members. It worked.
So when I read that passage in the book, it made me smile because it reminded me that true leaders – great or small – have the resiliency to bounce back in spite of adversity and overcome it.