Leaders Look for the Silver Lining

Are you familiar with the term “silver lining” as in “every cloud has a silver lining?” It’s a metaphor for hope or optimism. Great leaders are skilled in finding the silver lining. They know how to look for it, where to look for it and when to look for it. Do you?

Great leaders are great at seeing the big picture and “connecting the dots.” They recognize patterns, options, and future scenarios more easily than most. They intimately know their family, friends, and team, thus making it easier to find the silver lining.

When dealing with strangers, the public, or someone they don’t know well, great leaders can still connect the dots and find the silver lining in a difficult situation. How? By understanding people. By understanding truth. And by understanding the world around them, from politics to business to sports to faith to entertainment to culture to food to social trends.

Great leaders are well-read, well-traveled, and well-connected. They can more easily find the silver lining because they “see” differently. They can connect the dots and offer hope to others because they know where to look. They have experiences and knowledge and wisdom and perspective that others don’t have. Their self-awareness is higher than average. They’ve personally experienced trials, obstacles, and difficult times, only to persevere and come out better for it, refined so to speak by the fire. They’ve been in the desert. And survived. They’ve been marooned on an island. And survived. They’ve been in the fiery crucible. And survived. History is full of people who failed or experienced difficulties before achieving greatness. Joseph, Jesus, Paul, Edison, Lincoln, and Helen Keller come quickly to mind.

Seeing the silver lining is often simply a matter of changing perspective. The picture above shows metal that was worked into a piece of glass. Looking through the glass (and focusing on the background), one can see the Connecticut River and the hills of New Hampshire. But if one focuses on the intricate metal frame instead of the river (the foreground instead of the background), the river and hills lose clarity. Should one focus on the metal frame or the river? Which is right” Both. It depends. The key is that a simple change in focus completely changes one’s perspective. Some see the metal frame. Others see the river. Great leaders see both.

The silver lining for one might not be the silver lining for another. It’s situational and dependent upon the unique circumstances that surround the individual in question and their trial. Great leaders know there’s not a one-size-fits-all silver lining. They know how to see, where to look, and how to connect. They know that finding the silver lining offers hope, provides encouragement, and sets free that which was in bondage.

Last night, I completely failed at making a gluten-free loaf of artisanal bread for my wife. But I had some learnings that I’ll apply the next time. … Edison went through many materials before finding a satisfactory filament for the light bulb. … Helen Keller overcame several physical challenges to create a powerful platform from which she positively impacted millions of people. … You get the point. Some challenges are trivial (e.g. my failed loaf of bread). Some challenges are massive. But great leaders look for the silver lining in each failure, in each trial.

Have you experienced great difficulty? Regardless of the outcome, did you look for the silver lining? Great leaders look for the silver lining. Are you?

Have a great week and remember to build on your success and learn from your “failures.”

Dr. 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.

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