Make or Break Leadership Experiences

The ability to process challenges may be a make or break experience for the leader, because the choices made during these challenges may determine the attitudinal direction of the leader towards challenges in general. Such an attitude in turn may determine his or her destiny as a leader.

The essence of job enjoyment for a leader is to feel confidence in the ability to process obstacles and challenges.

During the course of the past few weeks I was privileged to share a respected leader’s personal journey in facing a serious threat to his happiness and values. Looking back it seems ‘just another positive experience’, but while in the process of confronting and working through the experience it was traumatic for the person concerned and to some extent for me as well. Some of the basic universal leadership principles applied in this and other experiences stands out in my mind and we would like to share this with you. 

We reported on one of these experiences after a personal leadership interview with Avinash Singh, Head of ABSA Private Bank. In the article Avinash mentioned going through ‘crises of confidence’ at various stages of his life when confronted with a new career challenge. As he progresses in his career, Avinash is steadily developing a heritage of understanding that all challenges are different yet all are the same in the sense that universal principles govern all situations. By mastering such principles we learn models that work for us no matter what the situation. This is how we grow in leadership confidence in handling crisis situations. This is how our job enjoyment grows as well. Few things are as pleasing as a job well done against what appears to be insurmountable odds at the time!

We find that good leaders have many things in common in spite of vast differences in background and leadership styles. One thing they seem to have in common is their approach to pressure situations.

Last week our leadership gem in this column read as follows:

‘Great leaders consistently focus on the next action, rather than be bound to the perceptions of the existing moment. We need to evaluate before we do, and the evaluation process is a preparatory phase and may contain many emotional, unreasonable and even harmful perceptions. This is a necessary part of the emotional and mental process and mature leaders perceive it as such. Lesser leaders are often swept away by the emotional pressures of the moment and this puts immense stress on them. It is the next action, after evaluation, which really counts.  The evaluation process is not our enemy, but our valuable friend before commitment to the next action’.

I have seen many fine leaders at all levels from the home to the work place react in precisely this manner when confronted with difficult situations. It is indicative of a positive habit and model that may often be acquired only after considerable trials and errors in the past. No pain without gain the saying goes.

At Leadership Platform we use the expression the Edo Factor, meaning that all situations contain in essence two major factors – evaluate and do, hence the term Edo Factor. We evaluate and do all the time. We cannot live without the Edo Factor. Yet it is precisely in the understanding of these two actions that our enjoyment and success as leaders are hidden. A positive and seamless attitude towards situational dynamics is only possible when we have a deep-rooted respect for the role played by proper evaluation and subsequent committed action in all our challenges. The tendency to either under or over evaluate is common around us.

For example: editors of publications are well known for their ability to evaluate and do under the pressure of deadline situations. They evaluate and make decisions constantly around what words to change, add or leave out. Remember the old saying parents teach children: ‘Sticks and stones can break your bones but words can never hurt you’. We all know though that words can indeed inflict pain, disappointment, disaster on the one hand or inspiration and enjoyment to thousands on the other. This article has run through the hands of an experienced editor as do thousands of writings across the world every day. This is a common example of the Edo principle at work. 

Every leadership job contains many situations every day that require wise evaluation and subsequent confident action. It is how we perform in the evaluation phase that determines to a large extent our job enjoyment This is where we spend so much time and energy of soul that we either put immense pressure on our self and others around us, or we trust our behavioural model in evaluating calmly and consistently, resulting in an orderly and positive climate around us. We cannot control every situation that crops up around us. But we can certainly control our attitude and approach to such situations.

It is a question of what behavioural processes or models we use when confronted with perceived obstacles or challenges. What model do you use?

All of us use behavioural models (patterns, processes, steps, formats) in every area of our daily life. It is humanly impossible to live without the use of behavioural models. We get in the car and follow a series of processes as we drive to work. We sometimes call them habits. We may get to the office and start the day by drawing up a list of priority actions. Without behavioural models there would be no order, only chaos and anxiety. We would have to re-process millions of situations around us all the time. People who believe that they do not follow behavioural processes are fools; we all do.

It could be said that a normal person may be using hundreds or even thousands of processes every day. Profitable leaders tend to be driven by fewer and more focused models. We use terms to describe such leaders as ‘He or she knows where he/she is going’; ‘That person is very organized’; ‘He or she quickly gets to the essence of things’; ‘He knows what he is doing’, and many other such expressions. Such comments usually imply that the leader has a developed sense of priorities, values and motivations. In other words, believable processes drive the leader.

We determine the behavioural processes we believe in. This is where our believed values are tested and this is where our leadership confidence is established. It is in applying these models that we either optimize our daily evaluations and actions or not. If you and I do not develop positive behavioural processes that drive our confidence, then we will automatically default to behavioural models that are negative and drag us down as leaders. We may then tend to fall into emotional cracks by confusing the roles of evaluation and doing.

In the crisis experience mentioned at the beginning of this article, the leader concerned has reaped the positive results of a life time spent in developing and living up to good universal values and behavioural processes under pressure situations. The world is a better place as a result of such people.   

  This article appeared in the:

The Workplace

Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Louis on for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.




Adriaan, as an accomplished author and leadership advisor, has been interviewing and working with top leaders for more than 15 years. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Leadership Platform. (Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP)

Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022

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Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


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