Leadership Insights: Become the Diamond

Find Career Growth in High-Pressure Situations

There are times in life, both personally and professionally, where circumstances can change at such a rapid speed that our opinions, perspectives, and course of action can shift by the day, if not by the hour. These times of adversity shape who you will become, but also expose who you are now. Just as diamonds are simply chunks of coal that did well under pressure, we too must embrace the chaos around us to ‘become the diamond’.

So, how exactly can we capitalize on these situations to emerge stronger, both as a leader and as an organization? Read on to learn strategies that not only foster career growth but that can be used to overcome these challenges and drive meaningful results.

1. Take Action 

When faced with such circumstances, there are generally three groups of people: 

  • Those who take reflective but action-oriented responses in an attempt to mitigate the challenges and seize opportunities
  • Those who simply panic and overload themselves and others with reactions that may be reasonable but tend to only exacerbate the challenges
  • Those who are simply bystanders; the proverbial “deer in the headlights” 

As leaders, we have an obligation to do all we can to put ourselves in the first group. Although there is so much we cannot control, we can ensure we take action and confront the challenges head-on. 

2. Embrace the Gray

With all that seems to divide the world today, it turns out that we might not be as far apart as it seems. The news feeds on extremes; no longer just a 30-minute daily segment or a newspaper on your doorstep. Rather, social media is the source of news for many. With that shift, it also means that news is now a commodity; media outlets fight for clicks and viewership. Headlines are now competing for your business, and extremes are great for business. 

More than ever, it is essential to realize that most issues are not problems to be solved. Instead, they are polarities to be managed. There are usually no solutions that don’t have additional problems within that solution. It is important to understand that continuum, evaluate both intended and unintended outcomes, and recognize that not all outcomes are black and white, but gray. Generally, individuals would declare that they want the freedom to assemble, free speech, and the like. They also want safety. If we sacrifice all our freedoms, it is easy to establish order and security. If we don’t sacrifice any freedoms, then the security we crave is all but impossible. Thus, there is no perfect solution.

Seeing this as a polarity to manage versus a right/wrong approach shifts our paradigm and allows all to better understand each other’s perspectives. It is possible to hold two opposing views simultaneously in a world that needs optimization over perfection. 

3. Take On Imposter Syndrome

It’s only natural, when faced with a new crisis, to harbor a secret – that deep down inside, you have no idea what you are doing. Many high achievers can at times, feel like complete frauds as if their accomplishments are just the result of serendipitous luck. Although you’ve often been told that one of the secrets to success is “fake it until you make it,” this can also lead to what many label as imposter syndrome. This overwhelming feeling of inadequacy appears despite evidence that indicates you’re skilled and quite successful.

Recognize that perfectionism and imposter syndrome are often a related pair. Many high-performing individuals set excessively high goals for themselves and tend to have a twinge of controlling tendencies. When thoughts like these arise, remember that you are better than you think you are, smarter than you think you are, and more worthy than you believe. 

In some cases, imposter syndrome might not be something from which you suffer, but it may be affecting those you lead. Look for signs around you just as much as you look for signs within. This commitment to supporting them will go a long way as you build authentic relationships with your teams.

Find Support in Other Leaders

Here’s the good news: although you might be leading a team through uncharted waters and  unsure of your footing, you are completely in control of where you choose to step. You are completely in control of your voice, your message to others, and your attitude. 

In times of uncertainty, it may feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, and historically, you’ve been told that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Yet, you don’t have to face these situations on your own. You can distribute the weight, finding other leaders who are also leading through uncharted waters and creating opportunities by delegating responsibilities. This is an opportunity to discover new perspectives and learn from them. 

During this time, it is important to remember that you shouldn’t expect immediate perfection from others. Remaining empathetic through the process is what will help everyone come out on top, stronger than before. 

4. Choose Your Path

The beauty of life is that you have the power to choose what path you want to take in good times, and in bad. Here are a few focus areas to keep in mind as you make your own path forward.

Protect your mind. 

In times of unknown, whether it be an acquisition, new leadership, economic uncertainty, or global turmoil, people tend to experience greater anxiety when they feel like they don’t have access to the information that they need. On the other hand, a sense of panic can stem from being immersed 24/7 in reports that focus on inaccurate or overly negative information. “Why is this happening?” is a question of despair; “what can we do?” is a question of possibilities and hope. It is during this time one must put themselves first and focus on their mental wellness. If not, how can one be expected to make decisions, lead, and perform at the best of their ability? 

Find support in your inner circle.

The quest for certainty is a quest for comfort. Ultimately, it might be that the support we seek comes from a who rather than a what. Your inner circle can become the source of reassurance and motivation to persevere through whatever situations you are faced with. In the end, the people in our lives are what truly shape us. When times are good, our families, friends, work associates, clients…they know us, but in times of adversity, we truly get to know them –– and you must choose to be with people who make you become a better you. 

Become your best self.  

Just as you choose who you surround yourself with, you too must be the kind of person you would want in your life when you face personal adversity. Choose empathy over judgment. Choose optimism over pessimism. Choose to give overtaking. Choose to be the person that makes others feel better after they interact with you. 

Be better, do better.  

Most spend as much time with work associates as they do with even the closest family or friends. So, what if all of us made a concerted effort to be the best version of ourselves with each other? What if we all treated each other the way that they want to be treated? What if who we are provides much of the comfort we all seek? What if we then did our best to take this way of being to our family, friends, and community? By truly committing ourselves to live out these values, we can become better employees, better leaders, and most importantly better people. 

Developing Leaders to Make a Difference

True growth through adversity isn’t something that occurs overnight –– it takes conscious effort to take the pressure around you and become the diamond. As a leader in your organization, you are given a powerful, yet rewarding opportunity to help those you lead to continue to develop professionally. By being the leader they need in their career, you both win.  

To learn more about how we can establish a culture of growth in your organization, please reach out, we’d love to hear from you. Simply contact us by clicking the button below and filling out the form. A member of our team will be in touch with you shortly. 

This content was originally written by Karen Schmidt for the Sanford Rose Associates Executive Search Network in Q3 2020 and reworked by Kinsley Sarn in August 2022.

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