What Doesn't Kill You Makes You a Stronger Leader

Once the right person is in a leadership role, they usually take a beating. 

If you're looking for someone to solve your problems, look elsewhere. If you're looking for the "man with the plan," look elsewhere. If you're looking for someone to get things organized, don't ask me. I'm a leader, and that's not what I do. 


So what exactly do I do?

I prepare organizations for change, and help them cope as they struggle through change. 

This is innovation and leadership guru John Kotter's definition of leadership, which he distinguishes from management. Management talent rests on the ability to cope with complexity. That is a nice skill to have, but it is not enough, Kotter says. Leadership requires the ability to cope with rapid change and the ability to set the direction forward. This ability is not innate. It can be learned. And yet, identifying and honing leadership skills is no easy feat.

In a lesson on Big Think Edge, the only forum on YouTube designed to help you get the skills you need to be successful in a rapidly changing world, Kotter points out that once the right person is in a leadership role, they take a beating. "Almost every leader of any stature that I’ve studied has not had an easy life,” he says. "They’ve been knocked down any number of times. Nelson Mandela was in jail for 27 years, if you can believe that."

While it may not be that extreme for those in middle management, leaders can still take a page from Mandela’s playbook by picking themselves up when they get knocked down.

"People who learn to give really, really good leadership go the opposite direction," Kotter says. "They kind of pick themselves up, dust themselves off. Through hardship you really can become stronger."

The good news is that once people master their leadership skills, it can transcend industries and cultures, according to Kotter. Whether one is a politician or a CEO in the US or in South Africa, it’s all about inspiring people and gaining buy-in from the people they’re leading.

"It’s all about working with people to develop some kind of a vision of a future, which is always a change from where you’re at right now," Kotter says. "Then communicating that out to relevant constituencies in a way that gets them to really buy in with, not just with their heads, but with their hearts."

Sign up for a free trial subscription on Big Think Edge and watch Kotter's lesson here:

For expert video content to inspire, engage and motivate your employees, visit Big Think Edge

Watch the video below and sign up for your free trial to Big Think Edge today. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

Elizabeth Warren's plan to forgive student loan debt could lead to an economic boom

A plan to forgive almost a trillion dollars in debt would solve the student loan debt crisis, but can it work?

Photo credit: Drew Angerer / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren has just proposed a bold education reform plan that would forgive billions in student debt.
  • The plan would forgive the debt held by more than 30 million Americans.
  • The debt forgiveness program is one part of a larger program to make higher education more accessible.
Keep reading Show less

Banned books: 10 of the most-challenged books in America

America isn't immune to attempts to remove books from libraries and schools, here are ten frequent targets and why you ought to go check them out.

Nazis burn books on a huge bonfire of 'anti-German' literature in the Opernplatz, Berlin. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Culture & Religion
  • Even in America, books are frequently challenged and removed from schools and public libraries.
  • Every year, the American Library Association puts on Banned Books Week to draw attention to this fact.
  • Some of the books they include on their list of most frequently challenged are some of the greatest, most beloved, and entertaining books there are.
Keep reading Show less

Supreme Court to hear 3 cases on LGBT workplace discrimination

In most states, LGBTQ Americans have no legal protections against discrimination in the workplace.

(Photo by Andres Pantoja/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The Supreme Court will decide whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also applies to gay and transgender people.
  • The court, which currently has a probable conservative majority, will likely decide on the cases in 2020.
  • Only 21 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws effectively extending the Civil Rights of 1964 to gay and transgender people.
Keep reading Show less