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Ever been stuck on an airplane? For hours at a time? … Not long ago, I landed in Frankfurt during a snowstorm. I was trying to get to Geneva. My body was tired. I’d already been traveling for 20+ hours. The airport closed. Over 700 flights were cancelled. Thousands of stranded passengers grounded the airport. Every available seat was taken and people were sitting, sleeping, and sprawled out on the floor.
Nearly 17 hours later, I arrived in Geneva. During that time, I’d “slept” on the ground for a few hours and boarded two planes that did not leave the airport. In each instance, we took a bus to a plane, boarded, and sat. For hours. The plane was de-iced. We waited. We had a mechanical problem. We waited. The plane was de-iced. We waited. The runway was plowed again. We waited. We got off the plane and took a bus back to the terminal. A few hours later, we went through a similar exercise.
Waiting in a plane, or even a crowded airport that is running low on food/beverage is not the same as waiting at Disney World, or the Mall of Asia, or Malibu, or 5th Avenue, or a nice café in Paris. Waiting in a plane for hours is not fun. I was prepared. I had my iPad and Kindle. I had a few snacks. I had earplugs and a mask. But let’s be honest, it’s not comfortable. Hour after hour. Plus, I’d already been on the plane for hours coming from Asia. My flight from Seoul to Frankfurt had been 13 hours. I didn’t want to be on a plane! Waiting. … Did I mention the flight from Frankfurt to Geneva is about 45 minutes?
During this storm, I was reminded that travelers need fortitude. They need a degree of courage, endurance, and resilience to successfully navigate snowstorms, delays, mechanical problems, long-flights, and so on. The same is true for leaders.
The world-class leader will face times of loneliness, doubt, and persecution. Great leaders, who accomplish significant results and serve others, demonstrate courage, endurance, and resilience.
In one way or another, I’ve been in leadership roles for nearly 40 years in church, on sports teams, in the community, in school, and in the corporate/business world. During that time, there have been some amazing times and some results I’m extremely proud of and I’ve been fortunate to be a leader on teams and in organizations that have won a multitude of championships and awards, that have made a tangible difference to a community, that have helped people grow, that have made real-life impact.
I’ve also be a leader on teams and in organizations that have suffered setbacks, missed targets, been ridiculed, and experienced doubt. Almost always, the achievement, the victory, the prize came after a storm. Being a leader isn’t easy. It requires fortitude. To be a great leader, to be world-class, you must be able to endure. To push through. To have resilience. To have endurance. To keep focus.
My best advice to someone in a storm, or to a new leader who hasn’t yet experienced a storm, is:
- Remain calm
- Stay focused on the end-result, the prize
- Focus on what you can control and don’t worry about the rest (yes, try to influence it, but don’t worry about it)
- Keep a positive attitude and keep taking positive action (gather information, try new approaches, look for new options).
Over time, world-class leaders develop fortitude. They develop a confidence that things will work out. That sun will come out. That the plane will take off and arrive in Geneva. They have learned to push through and not give up. They demonstrate an inner calmness and strength of character. Is that you?
How do you handle difficult times as a leader?
As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.
Dr. Robert Gerwig is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.