Steven Snyder wrote a solid leadership book on something everyone deals with but not many write about. In Leadership and the Art of Struggle, the book is dedicated to working and leading through challenges, adversities, and changes.
Challenges can wear us down. When this happens, we can lose our way and get off track. Challenges are not meant to be avoided, as sidestepping them can leave a messier wake. We need to embrace our pathway, no matter how thorny or rocky it may be. In doing this, we learn, grow, and build resolve that only makes us better.
Steven Snyder outlines a solid framework and thoughtful practices to adopt. There may not be a textbook way of dealing with challenges, but this book definitely provides a map to navigate from.
Four Key Insights
It is always challenging to highlight a book with a lot of substance, so here are four key insights to entice you.
Insight 1: Fixed vs. Growth Mind-set
“Virtually every adult has at some point told a youngster who did something well, ‘You are so smart!'” (page 44)
“In a growth mind-set, you pay conscious attention to cultivating abilities through continuous learning.” (page 45)
There is a discussion about our automatic mind versus our reflective mind. Simply stated, our automatic mind makes quick decisions based on previous information and experiences, and our reflective mind takes more time as we reason and consciously think through situations and data. The first relates more to our fixed mind-set while the latter fosters a growth mind-set.
There is an interesting distinction between these two mind-sets. It is a difference in productivity, optimism, and how feedback is dealt with. A growth mind-set enables us to use our reflective mind to be much more effective when working through struggles as well as taking on challenging projects that stretch and advance us further.
The key point is to focus on developing a growth mind-set by tapping into our reflective practices.
Insight 2: Regain Balance
“The central focus is awareness. Mindfulness practices teach us to become more aware and more fully present while remaining peaceful within, even as chaos rages all around.” (pages 83-84)
We will hit challenging times. Absolutely. Given this fact of life, we need to develop practices to center ourselves. We need to have practices that enable us to catch our balance.
Mindfulness is a practice that can help us regain our balance. Mindfulness teaches how to find our center and enables us to gain greater awareness. Jon Kabat-Zinn calls it “wakefulness.” We need to awake to our moments and discover ways to gain advantage in our awareness. As Steven points out, we spend a lot of time doing, and we need to spend some time being.
“Through mindfulness our focus turns to being, as in being full present in the moment – fully awake, fully aware, and fully attentive.” (page 84)
Meditation is a cornerstone of mindfulness, and it can be done in 8 minutes, 20 minutes, or longer each day. The point is it doesn’t take a large portion of any day but the payoff in regaining our balance is invaluable.
Insight 3: Blind Spots
“Blind spots are the product of an overactive automatic mind and an underactive reflective mind.” (page 113)
We all have blind spots. Unfortunately, we may be unaware of them so taking time to really understand what they are is time well-spent. Why blind spots are troubling is because they can interrupt our performance. Our automatic mind encourages more blind spots. An inactive reflective mind promotes more blind spots. Again, we need a balance.
Blind spots can be in these areas:
- Personality – how we process and act on information
- Values – what is really important
- Strategic – what purpose we are – or should be – pursuing
- Conflict – how relationships and emotions are handled
Awareness is vital so we can minimize or eliminate our blind spots.
Insight 4: Purpose and Identity
“The inward journey relates to bumping into my own limits and fears with each leadership challenge. Will I have the courage for the difficult conversations? Will I be able to separate my self-interests and biases from the best leadership practice?” (page 152)
It all funnels into a fundamental question and answer – Why am I here?
We are on a journey or warrior dash, pick your favorite path. We need to have clarity of purpose. It is what will shine the light on our life roadway and get us through the good and challenging times. We better spend the time to discern our purpose.
Weaving It Together
There are many spot-on points and worthwhile exercises to do, but these four insights weave together a platform to take on struggles successfully and fully.
The right mind-set frames our leadership approach and, at times, we need to catch our balance to return to solid leadership and life footings. As we move forward, we need to be aware of our blind spots to prevent getting too lost in our direction. Through it all, we need to be purposeful in our choices, words, and actions while retaining and refreshing the identity that makes our community and family proud.
We cannot avoid challenges, nor should we. In the challenges, we gain strength in soul and mind. To paraphrase a quote in the book, “We get smarter.”
How do you lead through struggles? What keeps you centered and on the right path?
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the book mentioned above for free as part of the book launch. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Join the Conversation
Leadership and the Art of Struggle
Hi Jon, I treat every challenge as an opportunity. It could be a reason to change or a step towards success. It is something that has come on my pathway for a purpose and must have a deeper reason or meaning. I find that ‘regain balance’ is the key to go through any ordeal in life. A purpose definitely motivates me and helps me keep moving and pushing forward. Strong belief and self-confidence along with the practice of mindfulness helps me be centered. Great insights – if you follow them, you stop struggling and start evolving.
Agree, Harleena. Even beyond evolving, we may experience a moment when our learning and leading goes up a few notches to a new level of understanding and performance. Mindfulness is a great practice to empower us to handle our struggles in a better way, along with strong purpose and character. Thanks! Jon
I loved your review of Leadership and the art of struggle. It got me thinking of the many challenges involved in leadership and in particular I could resonate with what you wrote about purpose.
From a business leadership perspective, sometimes I get a little nervous about what I’m doing and whether what I’m doing will work. However, when I remind myself of the purpose for why I’m doing what I am, it helps to put things into perspective again.
Hi Hiten, Your story is a great reminder on the power of purpose. I believe you would enjoy this book as it provides several great practices to keep centered through challenging times and changes. Thanks for adding your insight! Jon
During times of struggle I lean into the relationships I’ve built. I think having people who will support and lift us up no matter what season we are going through is important.
Great post and points. I look forward to reading the book!
Great point, Dan. We need those relationships that will support us and challenge us. They help us get back up as well as encourage to stay on the right path during tough times. Appreciate your adding you insights! Jon
Thanks Jon. We definitely do. Glad to share in the discussion.