Ingredients of a Good Leader: Toughness

Toughness is a quality a leader must have to withstand the daily challenges of running any organization. Whether you lead your family, a business, a sports team, or a public entity you need mental toughness.

Leaders face many different challenges on a regular basis. Some challenges are smaller than others. Some problems need immediate attention while others can be tabled and dealt with in the future. You have to prioritize the issues and not chase everyone as they surface. Otherwise, you will be in constant crisis mode.

Part of your job description as a leader is dealing with problems. Whether you like it or not, it is what you sign up for as a leader. Someone once told me that you should earmark 25% of your annual pay towards dealing with problems. That perspective helped me a great deal. When a problem came up I told myself, “I am getting paid X amount of money to manage this issue”.

Legendary football coach Bill Parcells once said, “Every day you come to work, five things will happen you didn’t anticipate”.

Mental toughness can be developed. It takes practice and a bit of acting. UNC Head Coach Roy Williams would often say, “You can act your way into a new way of thinking easier than you can think your way into a new way of acting”. Think of yourself as an actor in a movie where you have to play the tough guy. Even though your insides are a mess you need to show a calm demeanor as all eyes are on you. Your team will take on your demeanor.

One of the biggest challenges for me was my second year as the coach at UNC. I knew we were in a rebuilding year, but UNC wasn’t used to that. We ended up with the worst record in Carolina Basketball history with an 8-20 record. After every loss I had to stand in front of a crowded media room and answer questions about another loss. Even though my guts were getting ripped apart, I stood up and “faced the music” with a calm demeanor. I didn’t cast blame on anyone as I tried to share a message of staying on a path of growth and hope for a better day.

“In other words, don’t expect to always be great. Disappointments, failures and setbacks are a normal part of the lifecycle of a unit or a company and what the leader has to do is constantly be up and say, we have a problem, let’s go and get it.” – Colin Powell

Learn & Grow!

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