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Sharma: Turbulent Times Build Better Leaders

Editor’s note: This is the third in the series of Robin Sharma blog posts for his six-week leadership challenge, “Become the Leader You Were Meant to Be.” Join the discussion at Facebook about Robin’s challenge posts.

Victims recite problems. Leaders develop solutions. That might seem like common sense, but common sense is rarely common practice. One of the best moves you can make to “Lead Without a Title” is to train your brain to see every problem as an opportunity. And every setback as a steppingstone to build your skill, access more of your talent and create more exceptional value for your customers.

HP, 20th Century Fox and United Technologies all launched during the Great Depression (1929-1939). While their competitors hid in their silos, these firms understood that crisis offers opportunity to those with the eyes to see it.

We are amid some wild and uncertain times. Most people in business are holding back, hanging on and playing small. This presents a remarkable chance for you to step into your leadership mindset as well as accelerate the growth of your business so that when better times arrive (and they will) you’ll be so far ahead of your competition, they’ll never be able to catch you.

Here are 4 insights to help you turn challenges into successes:

1. Tough Times Build New Capabilities. Anyone can show exceptional leadership ability in easy times. When all’s going to plan, anyone can be inspirational/excellent/innovative and strong. The real question is how do you show up when everything’s falling apart?

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy,” Martin Luther King Jr. said. Adversity presents you with the opportunity to access hidden resources, awaken sleeping potential and to grow into the leader you’ve always wanted to be.

2. Adversity Clears Out Old So New Can Be Installed. In my new book The Leader Who Had No Title, I explain why breakthroughs are always preceded by a period of breakdown—and deep disruption. Old buildings need to be demolished before new and better ones can be constructed. So turbulence is actually a pruning process: mediocrity gets cleared out so space is made for better businesses and excellent leaders to win the day. Even for you personally, going through a period of deep change only feels uncomfortable. Difficult times disrupt your conventional ways of thinking and push you to forge better habits of thought, performance and being.

3. Challenging Times Provoke Innovation. Nothing fails like success. Look at Motorola or Blockbuster. They were so staggeringly successful that they fell in love with their winning formula. And because times were good and profits were flowing, they failed to push the envelope and adapt to new conditions. And by the time they woke up to the need, it changed. It was way too late. Turbulent times like these push us to innovate. They open our eyes to better ways of working, performing and living. They force us to step up to new realities and create new solutions to old problems. And they stretch us to play far beyond any level we’ve ever played at, which is a very good thing.

4. Turbulence Rewards the Best. Darwinism is at work right now. Only the strongest/fastest/smartest and best will survive. Slow gazelles will get eaten and bloated organizations will die. This is a great time to be in business. By seizing the opportunities that disruption presents and leveraging hard times into greater success through outworking/outinnovating/outthinking and outworking everyone around you, this just might be the richest time of your life so far.

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