Leadership Challenge – Is It Possible to Emerge From the Darkest Hell Healed and Restored?

We recently participated in a leadership roundtable discussion.  The focus was on the many leadership challenge moments that leaders face running their organizations.  Whether the leader is in charge of a startup, with its many ups/downs associated with daily (sometimes hourly) survival or the leadership challenge of running an existing organization (sometimes no easy feat regardless of how long they’ve been in business!)  There were many topics considered for discussion:

  • What’s the best way to develop the strategic plan (and how to get that strategic plan implemented)?
  • Best practices when it comes to dealing with moments of change
  • How to ensure that all (both leaders and team members) have the same organizational vision through communication
  • Implementing recruiting strategies for A+ candidates (A version of the Top Grading methodology)
  • Ensuring that the organization continues to be agile/innovative
  • Creating a “High Potential” program for future organizational leaders

As you can tell, the topics were those most pressing to the leaders gathered.  Questions were asked/answered, and an overall tone of satisfaction permeated the meeting room. That tone though shifted abruptly when one of the leaders in attendance asked the following question:

“Here’s a leadership challenge for you… Is it possible to emerge from the darkest hell healed and restored?”

If you’ve read Malcom Gladwell’s recently released book, David & Goliath, then you know the story presented in Chapter 5 – Emil “Jay” Freireich. The story is of Dr. Freireich and his tumultuous search for a cancer cure for cancer. There is also presented in this chapter a theory regarding direct hits, near misses and overall misses (Think the London bombing that occurred during World War 2 . The theory being that those who received direct hits, as morbid as it sounds, don’t really count for “after bombing” feedback.  Those that achieved overall misses still laid in wait/fear for future bombings (a very small minority).  Finally, those that achieved near misses and lived to tell the tale found that they were not only resilient, but encouraged and grew in their resolve to overcome successfully future bombings!

With this knowledge in mind, we shared the story and similar story that those leaders who have experienced truly dark spaces (The ones they don’t tell you about in MBA school) often times have similar resiliency and resolve to overcome! The pressing leadership challenge therefore doesn’t really appear to present itself of much of a challenge at all (albeit those effected might tell a slightly different tale!)

What’s the Point?  So what’s the point? Can it be as simple as “that which does not kill us only makes us stronger!” Based on the research of Malcom Gladwell adn Dr. Freireich, we think that not only is there a high resiliency that would allow one to overcome obstacles but also succeed.

About Sam Palazzolo, Managing Director

Sam Palazzolo is Managing Director at Tip of the Spear Ventures, an agile Venture Capital and Business Advisory Services firm specializing in Mergers & Acquisition, Sales / Business Development & Turnaround Management.