Cutting-Edge Leadership

The best in current leadership research and theory, from cultivating charisma to transforming your organization

How to Turn Adversity Into Advantage

Leaders learn from adversity and failures. Leaders grow through challenges.

Research suggests that leaders learn more from failures than successes.  In this guest post, CGU graduate student, Krystal Miguel, reviews a new book on learning from adversity.

Leadership and the Art of Struggle lends a common sense approach to navigating personal and professional challenges with practical “how do we do this?” advice. Resiliency in the face of adversity is a topic researched by developmental psychologists as well as from a business and management perspective; Author, Steven Snyder uses this text to show adversity is a transdisciplinary challenge. Young professionals from every field can definitely look to this book as a guide to finding the often ambiguous silver lining in cloudy situations and maximizing the experience!

The truth is no one will have a one hundred percent success rate and how one handles the moments of difficulty are the moments that define one’s character and subsequently their leadership style. Snyder approaches this simple truth directly in a writing style that is encouraging and honest. He transforms what some perceive as failure into moments to be viewed as necessary milestones that should be embraced for learning potential instead of feared, as failure often is.

Snyder shares these insights transforming adversity into opportunities for growth by providing exercises for developing mindfulness and envisioning common ground among other skills. Using stories to engage and inform the reader, Snyder gives examples of the process of transforming adversity into growth potential. Chapter four is one of the many illustrations where he introduces a subject, ‘Joe Dowling’ in a case study, where the reader learns to view change through a lens of four tension points that lead to struggle: tensions of tradition, tensions of aspirations, tensions of relationships, and tensions of identity. The chapter ends with a “grounding practice” which offers a visualize perspective of the major tension areas by drawing a tension map along inward (identity) and outward (relationships) verses past (traditions) and future (aspirations) axes.

The book has three parts beginning with guiding the reader from regaining one’s footing once adversity grounds the high flying leader to exploring the “purpose and meaning” of a struggle ending with techniques to reframe the experience for future use. Each of the eleven chapters end with a ‘grounding practice’ section that reinforces the theoretical implications of failure as a vehicle to successful leadership through exercises designed to focus the leader on the positive aspects of a situation.

  Failure happens and this book practically helps the reader understand how one could maximize the experience and grow personally and professionally.

Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College.

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