Defiant Faith and Leadership

by  Jeff Orr  |  Self Leadership

You are heading full steam toward your goals and vision. You endure small setbacks and obstacles. This is all part of the leadership challenge you face each day. Undeterred, you rally your team to focus on the vision for inspiration, and the projects at hand for the momentum. You are confident that your plans and efforts will pay off. And then…

A key client pulls their account with no explanation. One of your key leaders resigns. You are hit with some discouraging financial reports from your CFO. And it’s only ten in the morning. You feel your stomach twist into a knot and a warm feeling starts to creep up the back of your neck. It’s stress time.

Many leaders I know actually like this kind of pressure. It’s a kind of rite of passage for them to test their mettle. The hotter the fire, the stronger they come out of it. At least, that’s what they show on the outside. On the inside, when they are honest with themselves, they admit there are times of discouragement and doubt. Feelings of hopelessness and futility bounce in the space between their ears fighting against the confidence they normally feel. The war for a leader’s mind has begun.

I have felt this kind of pressure in my own leadership with some of the teams I have led. I have felt this kind of stress when I was on the wrong end of a merger negotiation. I experience this war for my mind as I continue to pursue the vision for my leadership company. Maybe it’s because I am a different kind of leader that I struggle a bit more deeply with these issues. Maybe it’s my personality. But to win this fight in my mind, and ultimately for my company, I have determined to fight with “defiant faith.” It’s easy to believe in my cause or vision when the path is clear. It is a different story when I can no longer see the way to my destination. This critical juncture in my leadership journey will deepen my convictions and resolve or weaken me to ineffectiveness. The choice is mine; and my choice is to believe.

I will believe that the path I am on is leading me to the right destination even though I cannot see it. I will believe that my leadership decisions will produce the outcome I am working for even when there is no immediate feedback to support this belief. I will defiantly believe, even though I have no evidence to assure me that I will succeed. All I have is the vision and the confidence I have in my skills and abilities. Oh, and a support network helps too.

I have a group of guys I regularly meet with, all of whom are great leaders in their own right. I have found wisdom and confidence with them in times of uncertainty. They have given me invaluable advice to guide some of my key decisions. They have challenged my thinking when it has gone awry. They have stretched me, sharpened me, and made me a better leader. The consistency from this group is a large part of why I am able to attack my latest challenge with this defiant faith. You see, they believe in my vision too, even though they are not associated with my company in any way. They believe in my vision because they believe in me. I will triumph through this trial. I will overcome. I will prevail. How about you?

What have been some of your greatest leadership challenges? How did you respond to them? Do you have a support network to make you a better leader? What leadership challenges are you facing now? How can you respond differently than in times past? What will you do this week to strengthen your mindset, leadership, and support network?

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Deborah L. Parker  |  19 Mar 2013  |  Reply

Nice post and pep talk Jeff. We need daily courage to lead our enterprise and a heaping helping of that defiant faith!

perry  |  19 Mar 2013  |  Reply

I agree that all leaders face challenges similar to the ones you list and I have found that the best way to stay the course and be able to continue to push through when things are not going well is to ensure you are taking the path that aligns with your ethical and moral compass. This is not usually the way that guarantees quick results and that sometimes becomes the issue.
We have become so enamored with instant results that leaders are often forced to make decisions that will not produce sustainable change but will give a quick bump to the P&L or the next quarterly earnings report. Then it becomes the challenge of continuing to prop things up with another set of temporary decisions quarter after quarter because that way you stay in the role.
It is a true challenge to actually disturb a system and try to harness the energy the disturbance creates in a positive manner to move the system forward while still producing the economic results needed.
Thanks for the thought provoking post.

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