Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Dealing with adversity as a true leader

The following is part of the Listening Leaders Newsletter sent by Dr. Lyman K. Steil & Dr. Richard K. Bommelje. If you'd like to subscribe or check past newsletters please visit their Listening Leaders site.

"Listening Leaders® regularly face the two-edged challenge of simultaneously attempting to accept and address adversity that enters every listener’s life. Adversity resides around every corner in a period filled with worldwide financial turmoil, a downturn in the world economy, excessive unemployment, real-estate foreclosures, health care challenges, international armed conflict, terrorist threats, energy shortages, excessive individual and national debt, and a contentious political season. Danger lurks everywhere, and Listening Leaders® must learn to accept and address adverse moments as they find them.

Obviously, different people deal with moments of adversity in different ways. However, all listeners will be wise to remember the wisdom of the Roman philosopher Lucretius who wrote, “Look at a man, in the midst of doubts and danger, and you will learn in his hour of adversity what he really is. It is then that true utterances are wrung from the recesses of his breast. The mask is torn off; the reality remains.” The ultimate test of listening may reside in how well one listens when the world around them seems to be falling apart in front of their eyes and ears. As we know, it is easy to listen when one is coasting downhill with the wind at our back and the sun in our face. The greater challenge is meeting the task of readiness for the moments when the road turns steep and rocky, and the wind and the rain are in our face. For it is in these moments when Listening Leaders® multitude of honed skills of listening truly pay-off.

Accepting and addressing all moments of adversity becomes easier if one listens with planned preparation, an understanding of relevant listening principles, and practiced listening skills. Preparation is critical as adverse events often appear when one may least expect them. Simply put, wise listeners plan and are prepared for the unexpected. They project negative possibilities and create strategies for rational processing and responding. In the process, Listening Leader’s® build solid foundations from which they can address adverse events.

In addition, the challenges of dealing with adversity require a deep understanding and application of Listening Leader® Principles. Assuming “Primary Responsibility” for effective listening becomes heightened in all adverse moments. Moreover, difficult times demand that listeners “Find and Align the Purpose” of every communication. One cannot run from, or ignore, any significant challenge of the moment.

Finally, listeners will find it easier to address any adverse issue if they develop their skills of effective listening through extensive Practice of “Identifying and Using Structures, and Identifying and Controlling Distractions and Emotions.” The adage, “perfect practice makes perfect” holds great significance in moments of adversity. Prepared listeners who have developed practiced skills will always trump the unprepared and un-practiced listeners. For as the Irish poet, W. B. Yeats observed, “We begin to live when we have conceived life as a tragedy.”

In times of adversity, Listening Leaders® will profit by accepting and adopting the simple observation of the Australian poet, Adam Lindsay Gordon, who wrote: “Life is mostly froth and bubble. Two things stand like stone, Kindness in another’s trouble, Courage in your own.”

So as we continue our quest of “Advancing listening leadership throughout the world,” we challenge all Listening Leaders® to accept and address adversity where you find it.

LISTENING LEADER® KNOWLEDGE NUGGET: Listening Leaders® accept and address adversity.

In the Winter of 1776-1777, Thomas Paine endured the travails of adversity in the dark hours of the Revolutionary War. Conditions were brutal, yet Paine established an invaluable and timely road map for all Listening Leaders® facing moments of adversity.

Paine wrote: “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.

I call not upon a few, but upon all: not on this state or that state, but on every state: up and help us; lay your shoulders to the wheel; better have too much force than too little, when so great an object is at stake.

Let it be told to the future world, that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet and repulse it. Say not that thousands are gone, turn out your tens of thousands; throw not the burden of the day upon Providence, but ‘show your faith by your works,’ that God may bless you.

It matters not where you live, or what rank of life you hold, the evil or the blessing will reach you all. The far and the near, the home counties and the back, the rich and the poor, will suffer or rejoice alike. The heart that feels not now, is dead: the blood of his children will curse his cowardice, who shrinks back at a time when a little might have saved the whole, and made them happy. I love the man who can smile in trouble that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.”

Two hundred and thirty-two years later, Thomas Paine’s invitation continues to hold value for present day distressed Listening Leaders® everywhere.

LISTENING LEADER TIP OF THE WEEK: Embrace moments of adversity.


Adversity introduces a man to himself ~ Anonymous

It never rains but it pours ~ Proverb

Prosperity doth best discover vice: but adversity doth best discover virtue ~ Bacon

When sorrows come, the come not single spies, but in battalions ~ Shakespeare

We are all strong enough to bear the misfortunes of others ~ Duc de la Rochefoucauld

We are always in the forge or on the anvil ~ Henry Ward Beecher

The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials ~ Chinese Proverb

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