Leading Through Hell and Back

Leading through hell and back is a blog about guiding others and yourself through the most difficult circumstances.

While leading people, you lead them through the sunshine and rain, the good times and the bad, and sometimes it’s heaven and sometimes it feels like hell.  Now I am not speaking entirely in the business world, but rather leaders in a general sense.

Many different individuals, some famous and some are not, that in the course of their life have trudged through the hardest of times, in the most difficult of circumstances.  Allow me to give you a few examples.

Mahatma Gandhi- This man is a famed figure for his non-violent civil disobedience, leading India to its independence.  This man was assassinated in 1948 with three bullets to the chest.  Gandhi truly was a leader, but it ultimately cost him his life.

Martin Luther King Jr.- MLK was an amazing figure in America’s history.  He was immortalized for his stand against racism and segregation.  This Baptist minister charged the gates of Hell with his passionate messages of equality and ultimately gave his life in the month of April 1968.

Susan B. Anthony- The face of the dollar coin, this pioneer of women’s rights forged a path that few would dare to walk.  She paved the way for women voting, even being arrested and accused of destroying the sanctity of marriage.  Her impact is still being felt today.  But the road was long and hard for this leader.

Many of the liberties that we enjoy today are the product of leaders storming through the violent fires of resistance and persecution.  I want to provide you with a few ideas to help you lead in the toughest of times and encourage you to lead when you feel the heat beating upon your life.

1. Identify Your Calling

What is it that stirs a passion in your heart?  Keeps you awake at night, with your mind racing a hundred miles per hour.  It calls out to you and drives you to near insanity because you cannot seem to wrap your arms around such a mammoth task.

People are called to many different causes.  Some are called to find a cure for various diseases.  We find people in the states that take up social causes, as well as in foreign countries where clean water is scarce, governments are corrupt, and views on women are low.  You can go to our military in the past and present and find men and women that lead a group of soldiers into the jaws of hell, with some giving their very lives to protect those of us here at home.

Teachers, business people, industry leaders, politicians, clergy, parents, coaches, mentors, police, firefighters, military personnel, and many other leaders that find themselves up against the odds and having to lead through difficult circumstances.  Here are three things that having a calling will do for you:

  • Gives you stick-ability:  A calling will plant your feet in concrete and allow you to stand and lead though everything is against you.
  • Gives you encouragement:  When it seems like you are up against it all, you can always go back to your calling and remember why you began this path in the first place.
  • Keeps you zoned in:  When you have a calling you seek to master that one thing.  You won’t let the winds scatter you all over the place, but rather you are the thin arrow flying down a very narrow path hitting the bulls eye.

“If you find what you do each day seems to have no link to any higher purpose, you probably want to rethink what you’re doing.”
― Ronald A. Heifetz

Do you have a calling?  If the path you are on leads you into the presence of strong difficulty, you better have a calling if you want to remain faithful to your cause.  Find your calling today, or better yet, answer the call that’s been nagging you for years.

2.  Develop Fortitude

The definition of fortitude is, courage in the midst of pain and adversity.  Listen, leadership is going to require a great deal out of you.  You may find yourself in a great deal of trouble and fearful situations and you will need courage to face them head on.

Most people have never heard of Desmond Doss, until recently a movie titled “Hacksaw Ridge” directed by Mel Gibson, was showing in theaters.  Desmond was a Seventh Day Adventist that did not believe in carrying a gun.  Oddly enough, he enlisted in the military to serve the US Army as a medic.  Doss found himself in WWII at the battle of Okinawa, with many calling him a coward and questioning his beliefs as a conscientious objector.

During a major counter-attack the Japanese wreaked havoc on top of “Hacksaw Ridge.”  While most of his comrades took cover Desmond Doss, through much fortitude, rescued the lives of 75 infantry men atop of that blood soaked hill while sustaining four major injuries himself.

It’s men and women like this that can lead people through hell and back.  Leaders with fortitude and a back bone to face the most incredible challenges and endure such amazing conflicts.

I know of no higher fortitude than stubbornness in the face of overwhelming odds.

-Louis Nizer

May we have leaders with the utmost courage and strength.  No matter the circumstance or battle you may face, the deep calling, and a healthy dose of courage will help you when it seems all hell has broke loose.

3.  Remember Those Behind You

Never forget, as a leader, when you are going through the fire, there are those going with you through the same fire.

For various reasons you are the leader.  You have proven yourself and have gained the position of leadership.  Therefore, there is a great responsibility given to you for those you lead.  Everyone is looking to you for guidance, instruction, and yes, inspiration.

There are a few things you can do to maintain your focus on those around you when you are going through difficult times:

  • Give them a job to do– I remember as a boy when our power went out for several days because of an ice storm and as a kid I was pretty scared.  But dad instructed me to go out back and carry wood in, and let me know I was an important part to this family during this difficult time.
  • Show them you trust them– Similar to giving them a job to do, but taking it a step further, you are transferring to them that you have confidence in there ability to handle complex problems in the midst of turmoil.
  • Lock arm in arm– I tell my guys all the time, we win as a team and we fail as a team.  Leaders shouldn’t shirk their responsibilities when all hell pours out, but instead get in the furnace with them, leading and comforting them along the way.

There was a sign I read the other day that said, “The comfort zone can be a beautiful place, but nothing grows there.”

 -Someone a lot cooler than me said that!

It’s during these hellish battles that we grow together, the team matures, and your leadership abilities develop even greater.  There are some things that you just can’t learn outside of the hard times.

Conclusion

So the next time you have to lead a group of individuals through the fires of Hell, never forget that these trials are for your benefit, and even though you want to focus on the hear and now, let us cast our eyes on the horizon to view the lesson and benefits that we shall receive through much patience, fortitude, and strength.

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” -Winston Churchill 

 

 

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The Handy Leader

You do not become a leader from laziness! Some people believe that work is a four-letter curse word. Look at all the great leaders that we read about and I promise you that one of their shining characteristics were that they worked extremely hard.

Your hands speaks volumes about you!  I personally work with my hands everyday of my life.  People often times ask me what I do for a living, and I say, “I manage a preventive maintenance shop.”  And they respond by saying they figured, based on how my hands look.  Hands are a very important part of our body, so much so that we take for granted many times the functionality and value that they provide for us each and everyday of our lives.

In John C. Maxwell’s book, Thinking For a Change, in the cartoon, Charlie Brown is holding up his hands and telling Lucy, “These are the hands which may someday accomplish great things.  These are hands which may someday do marvelous works!  They may build mighty bridges, or heal the sick, or hit home runs, or write soul-stirring novels!  These are the hands which may someday change the course of destiny!”  Lucy looks at his hands and simply says, “They’ve got jelly on them.” (1)

Your hands are a big part of your dreams and your ability to lead.  As a kid I would play games, throw rocks, and build tree houses.  My hands then began to write equations, take test, and wash dishes at a part-time job.  Now my hands work everyday, hold my babies, and point others in the right direction.  I have great plans for my hands, I want them to do great things and make great things happen.  Let me give you a few thoughts on how you can use your hands to lead.

Remember There Are No Handouts

As a leader we should not expect any handouts or freebies.  Do not get me wrong, sometimes the pendulum swings our way and a gift will fall right into our laps.  I for one will take full advantage of it and exploit it to the best of my abilities.  But for the most part nothing is for free and we should fully expect to earn our way to the top.

I never was a person who wanted a handout. I was a cafeteria worker. I’m not too proud to ask the Best Western manager to give me a job. I have cleaned homes.

-Shirley Jackson

Old-timers and even a great majority of the people today understand this concept, that permanent handouts can cripple a person’s ability to lead.  Here are a few things to help you climb your way to the top:

  • Accept responsibility- Understand where you are at right now.  You might be at the bottom.  Or you may not be an effective leader with a dysfunctional team.  Accept your position and situation.
  • Develop a plan-  What is your plans to grow as a leader?  What is your projection of where you are going?  How are you going to get to the top?  Be specific, be realistic, but be optimistic.
  • Work your butt off-  Do not accept handouts! WORK YOUR BUTT OFF!  MAKE IT HAPPEN!

Handouts will do nothing but weaken you and keep you down.  Do not accept the way things are.  Do not accept the status quo!  Do not wait for something to happen, do something about it!

Getting Your Hands Dirty

You do not become a leader from laziness!  Some people believe that work is a four-letter curse word.  Look at all the great leaders that we read about and I promise you that one of their shining characteristics were that they worked extremely hard.

“Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest.”

-Ecclesiastes 9:10

You must determine what it is you want.  Do you want a good marriage?  Do you want your congregation to grow?  Do you want to meet a new sales goal?  Do you want a nice bass boat?  Do you want straight A’s?

Whatever it is you want, you need to wrapped your hands around the plow, put your nose down, and drive forward.  You will break a sweat, be tested and tried, broken and beaten!  But let consistency be your friend!  Let patience be your confidant!  Embrace discipline as your brother and work as your sister!

Managing and leading can be a dirty job.  Dealing with people and personalities can give you callouses and blisters.  Leading your family in this crazy generation can litter your body with bumps and bruises.  But in the end it can be said of you that your were not afraid of a little work.  You gave it everything you got!

I learned the value of hard work by working hard.

-Margaret Mead

muddy-pig

“Finesse”

I am reminded of the early days of working in the preventive maintenance industry, I would be working with a lot of plastic pieces underneath the hood of a car.  Inevitably, I would break something and have to go and explain myself to the boss.  He would just shake his head and say “Finesse!  Finesse! Finesse!  It’s just plastic! Be easy with it!”

Leadership is a lot like this.  Working with people takes lots of finesse.  I liken it to an artist that has the most delicate touch.  Most artist do not use hammers and shovels to paint a masterpiece, but rather use the slightest stroke and pinpoint accuracy when placing the brush to the canvas.

Be true to yourself, help others, make each day your masterpiece, make friendship a fine art, drink deeply from good books – especially the Bible, build a shelter against a rainy day, give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day.

-John Wooden

Here a few quick thoughts to help you with finesse:

  • Have a passion for being a leader
  • Seek mastery in all you do
  • Never be afraid of failure, just get another canvas

Finesse requires an expert touch from years of training, years of failure and success, knowledge of the paints and canvas, and years of taking raw material and applying them with such vision, passion, and skills.

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

-Aristotle

Finally, as a leader, do not accept handouts, do not be afraid to get your hands dirty, and remember that finesse will create the masterpiece.  Look now at both of your hands and ask yourself, “What am I doing with these hands, that will make me a great leader, a great parent, or a great student?”  You can be a hands on leader and truly make a difference.  Now go for it!