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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

C-Suite Advisory

4 Key Insights To Help CEOs Embrace Opportunity In Adversity

The world has been dealt an unpredictable hand and has drastically changed in the past four months. Fear ensued from the spread of COVID-19. Sheltering in place is mandated on the national level.  Companies look to sustain business growth remotely. CEOs are daily watching the volatility of the stock market. And the horrific death of George Floyd forced corporate executives to voice their positions on race and diversity in the workplace. Leaders are under measures of stress. Everyone has shifted.

No doubt these are some painful and plaguing times for leaders. As I’ve heard, trauma is a nightmare that comes while we are awake. “We want to escape it all,” as Michaela Haas, PhD writes in her book, Bouncing Forward: The Art and Science of Cultivating Resilience; “When suffering strikes, running in the opposite direction as fast as we can seems to make so much sense, doesn’t it?”

Finding the Silver Lining

But suffering has transformative power. Positive psychology has embraced this process of flourishing and calls this power posttraumatic growth. Explained by Haas, “Growth arises from acknowledging our wounds and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable.”

Of course stress and its inevitability in a leader’s life isn’t a new phenomenon, yet many succumb to the displeasure when it strikes. While resilience may help to withstand the pain to some extent, posttraumatic growth allows us to grasp the knowledge of using the pain to change our lives for the better.

Striking this balance between pushing through adversity and embracing the hidden opportunity to lead from our best self creates anything but normalcy and could be the most challenging job of a leader.

Embracing the Opportunity

Haas writes not as an executive leader, but as someone who has experienced a leader’s crisis and has read your adversarial reports. She shares methods to help you embrace opportunities in adversity and build your own foundation to leadership success.

As a provider of executive wellbeing and personal mastery solutions, here are four of Haas’ key insights to support your growth and confidence in your leadership approach during a crisis.

Accept.  Haas references her own personal suffering, “What would happen if we stayed to pay attention,” referring to accepting the adversity. “Lean into it. Stay present. Stay curious.” Resist merely glossing over it. And don’t make matter worse by feeling sorry for yourself, your team or your company. You can develop a resilient mindset as you acknowledge the facts, be truthful about what you can handle, engage in honest self-reflection, ask for and accept help.

Thrive.  Even as leaders use studies to monitor the pulse of their industry, our social, emotional and cultural factors of pain give us information about our world. Working and growing through the adversity is simplified when surviving is removed from the equation. I challenge you to view yourself as one who thrives. Haas mentions doing these things:

  • Focus on the things you can do.
  • Though you’ve been pushed back in some minor way, consider what you get to do because of it.
  • Embrace the opportunity to find your inspiration. Perhaps learning a new skill? Or interviewing other leaders you admire and sharing their stories?
  • Write about your own experiences and how your life has shifted. Focus on your strengths and qualities, such as projecting realistic career goals. Numerous studies have proven the benefits of expressive writing to fire up the imagination to perceive a struggle differently. Imagine if just one person doesn’t give up because of your decision to thrive and share your story.

Pray. Haas writes about an individual whose adversity led him to a bench in a churchyard; a place of serenity where he experienced the divine love of God. A study shows that faith can have a tremendous impact on our health (whether physical, emotional or psychological health) if faith carries us through the crisis. Pray and ask for help. That’s wisdom. But at the same time make the commitment to do your part. That could mean leading with more love, paying more attention to others and going with the flow. Remember you and your role as leader are not mutually exclusive.

Evolve. Resilience not only includes the ability to adapt to one’s environment when necessary, but also the courage to challenge it to change. Embrace the opportunity to evolve. In doing this Haas suggests welcoming your uniqueness, standing up for yourself, harnessing your potential and reaping the benefits of stress reduction by retraining your brain through meditation.

Haas believes, “A growth mindset not only fortifies us in challenging times, but the same qualities and skills help us in or everyday lives.” It’s when we open our eyes to the possibilities before us to embrace growth opportunities that we can bounce forward in adversity.


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Dr. Deana Murphy
Dr. Deana Murphy, Founder at DecisionLab Global, pioneer of The Lead2Flourish Initiative specializing in executive wellbeing. Positive Psychology Practitioner. Dr. Deana Murphy is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow her on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.