Leadership that is never tested is not true leadership at all. Leadership is more than just academic concepts and words on a page. Leadership is more than just a personal or professional attribute. Genuine leadership implies engagement and example in messy situations of the real world.
Leadership is what happens when the fat hits the fire and the rubber meets the road. It is what you decide to do during and after the trials and the tests that determine whether your leadership will refine, grow, and strengthen. Trial and testing can have a part in making your leadership, but even more importantly, trial and testing reveal your leadership to you and others. Gary Kelly (president and CEO of Southwest Airlines) shares a leadership lesson that drives home this point (“How Did I Get Here?: Gary Kelly” Bloomberg Businessweek, 4/6/15–4/12/15, p. 68):
“Great leaders do their best work in the worst times.”
Whether the worst of times feeds into the leadership development cycle or whether it calls forth the leadership that is there may be a moving target. However, the point is difficult days will give genuine leaders the opportunity to display their talents. What does your leadership reveal during difficult days?
We should ask that question every day.