Overcoming Adversity and the Lessons of Experience in Leadership Development

In my last post we spoke about the lessons one can learn in overcoming adversity in life.  In today’s post we will move from just adversity to the importance of using experience to develop an individual’s leadership skills and competencies.  I will not exhaust this topic in just one post, but I will broach the subject and get started down a road we can continue to progress on the rest of this week and hopefully into next.  I will draw upon resources from great thought leading organizations such as the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) as well as others.  I trust you will find this to be of substantial value when you read and refer back to this.

When we talked last time about adversity there were a number of examples cited.  The first was the flight of Spirit, the Eagle at Auburn University who flew into the press box a little over one week ago.  Another example I will cite is one from my own past, my first college experience.

During my senior year in high school I pursued a Navy ROTC scholarship as well as an appointment to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD.  I ended up receive both opportunities and I chose to enter the academy on July 6, 1977.  While I was prepared physically, I was nowhere close to being prepared mentally for my experience and as a result I chose to resign my commission and leave the academy in August 1977 during Plebe Summer.    It was a crushing decision which left me with few options regarding what to do.  Rather than lose a semester of college I quickly enrolled at Murray State University in Murray, KY and completed a degree in Engineering Physics in 4 years.  My career has progressed quite nicely since then, but I look back to that initial decision as one where I had to deal with adversity and overcome an initial failure, if you call that a failure.  I refer to it as a decision that was not researched well enough and that has greatly influenced how deeply I investigate choices in other areas of my life.

This provides a great segue into the second part of our discussion, the lessons of experience in our lives.  Many people see classroom training as their primary learning vehicle in life since so much of our primary and secondary education takes place in a structured classroom environment.  To the contrary, most leadership skills and knowledge are gained, if not enhanced, through everyday experiences we encounter in the workplace.  One of the things that great organizations do is to understand just who their future leaders will be, and after doing so, they structure their future assignments so that these individuals gain the opportunity and access to the right types of assignments to broaden and deepen their skills and expertise.    The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), as well as many other organizations, have created competency libraries that list many of the skills and competencies that leaders need for success.  Even further, these libraries also give specific ideas to help organizations know what type of work situation allows the individual to gain and grow the specific competency.  We will talk more about this in the next post.

Adversity is a great teacher.  Experience is an outstanding teacher.

Education is what happens when we interface with our world.

What have you learned this week, or this month?

How did you learn these things?

What were the experiences that grounded, or provided context to these learning’s?

All good thoughts as you grow as a leader.