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  • Scott Hackman

Adversity is Good for Self Leadership


In workshops, naming the skills built on The Self Leadership Journey serves as an exercise for self-reflection and group learning. Participants chronicle the expertise they learned and the skills they developed during times of VUCA at any given point of their life, personally or professionally. When people share this journey with peers across teams they learn ways to engage each other’s strengths and support each other in areas of need.


VUCA is a term coined in military research to describe the charged atmosphere during times of war and combat. It stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. One or all of these elements are present at any given point in our lives and it’s during these times we must learn to either sink or swim. Oftentimes, we find out what we’re made of.


As an example, here is my self leadership journey. For each aspect of my journey, you’ll notice I developed both a practical skill and an element of my emotional intelligence.



As participants share how they grew on their self leadership journey, there one word that comes up several times in each group I facilitate: resilience.


The American Psychological Association defines it as: “Adapting in the face of adversity, tragedy, trauma, stress, or threats. It involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed.”


Per Merriam and Webster: “Ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”


If a participant doesn’t mention resilience specifically, the skills they mention are a result of resiliency, whether they realize it or not. These are the most common:


Self Regulation

During times of stress, individuals learn that flying-off-the handle can make a situation worse. So, they begin to regulate their responses and reactions to others. They learn stress management techniques, like deep breathing, meditation, or taking breaks.


Communication and People Skills

Times of VUCA are emotionally charged, so individuals realize how critical it is to communicate without causing additional conflict. They understand effective communication is paramount to achieve the results they want.


Problem Solving

In times of high pressure, individuals have to think critically and quickly to stop a problem from causing further troubles. They become better problem solvers as a result.


Planning and Executing

Individuals learn ways to mitigate the stress of VUCA through strategic planning and executing on it.


Increased Self-Confidence

Most importantly, times of VUCA draw out strengths individuals didn’t know they had. Many individuals find they are able to do things they didn’t realize they were capable of.


Asking for Help

VUCA increases overall self-awareness, not only with strengths but also with weaknesses. When individuals realize their limitations, they are able to reach out and ask for help from those with the skill sets they don’t possess.


Learning through Adversity

While each individual is different, and each adapts differently to stress, all of us will learn something from times of adversity. So, the next time you find yourself in VUCA, think of it as an opportunity to become a stronger and better you. The practical skills you gain can be a valuable asset to any organization.


Do you want to complete the Self Leadership Journey exercise? Download the worksheet here.

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