In Beliefs, Leaders

“A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill

There are a lot of people out there who are in some kind of position of leadership, whether it be in a business or some other organization. From the outside it can be difficult to tell why some of those people do well in those roles and others not so well. They quite often have similar backgrounds, or education, or experience – there isn’t always something that jumps out as an obvious differentiator.

And there are any number of things that separate great leaders from the rest. But one that I’ve come across consistently of late is the mindset of leaders when it comes to challenges. It seems like it should go without saying that leaders would embrace challenges, but unfortunately that’s often not the case. I know plenty of people in leadership roles who respond to the discovery of a new challenge with something along the lines of “Here we go again”, or “I doubt this will end well” or any number of phrases that indicate a lack of enthusiasm for tackling the challenge.

Ask yourself this: How can you possibly be great without great challenges? Think about individuals that you view as extremely successful, whether in leadership or anything else. Are any of those people viewed as successful because what they did was easy? Or because it was extraordinarily hard?

Think beyond business. We don’t celebrate athletes who made routine plays in meaningless games – we celebrate the ones who made great plays in championship situations. We don’t build monuments for presidents or prime ministers who ruled during periods when absolutely nothing happened – we memorialize the ones who were in charge during moments of great peril and led their countries through it. I could go on, but you get the idea.

You will never be a great leader without facing and defeating great challenges. Challenges force you to learn, force you to be at your best, force your entire organization to focus on what is most critical. Without those challenges we get lazy, stagnant, complacent.

The next time a challenge rises up in front of you, pay attention to how you respond. Do you roll your eyes and wonder if it’s worth it? Or do you view it as one more step towards greatness? Don’t think yourself into mediocre complacency. Go be everything you can be & embrace the challenge.

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Showing 3 comments
  • Wayne Lockhart

    Insightful Post Matt – I agree. Thanks again.

  • Chris Mason

    You are only as good as the biggest challenge you have resolved over the last six months.

    • Matt Heemstra

      I like that idea, Chris. Sometimes we rest on our accomplishments of 5 years ago. If we think about things the way you phrased it we’ll always be looking for the next challenge/opportunity. Good insight!

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