Saturday, April 10, 2010

Reacting Like a Leader

If you can react the same way to winning and losing, that’s a big accomplishment. That quality is important because it stays with you the rest of your life, and there’s going to be a life after tennis that’s a lot longer than your tennis life.
- Chris Evert

One of the many wonderful things about living along coastal South Carolina is the annual Family Circle Cup women’s tennis tournament on Daniel Island. The world’s top stars compete at this world-class facility for the coveted title each year. I will enjoy being at the event this week watching these remarkable players.

Past champions of the Family Circle Cup include such greats as Chris Evert, Steffi Graf, Gabriela Sabatini, Martina Hingis, Iva Majoli, Jalena Jankovic, Venus Williams and her sister Serena to name a few.

The tennis world was recently shocked and saddened by the news that Martina Navratilova was diagnosed with a non-invasive form of breast cancer. Her prognosis is good and everyone certainly wishes her the very best in her recovery.

Navratilova’s tennis career is a benchmark for all others to aspire to. She won Wimbledon eight times, won every Grand Slam at least two times each and in 1984 held all Grand Slam titles simultaneously. Her accomplishments on and off the court has earned her the respect of fans worldwide.

As leaders we are not immune from life’s setbacks and disappointments. “Trials, temptations, disappointments,” said James Buckham, “all these are helps instead of hindrances, if one uses them rightly. They not only test the fiber of our character but strengthen it. Every conquering temptation represents a new fund of moral energy. Every trial endured and weathered in the right spirit makes a soul nobler and stronger than it was before.”

Since it’s a settled fact that life’s joys and disappointments will be a part of our lives as leaders, how you choose to respond must be examined. The choices you make as a leader today will set the course for where you go as a leader tomorrow. Three factors are worthy of consideration.

The factor of a positive response. You may not choose the things that happen to you, especially the negative things, but you are in command of your response. Henry Van Dyke said, “There is no personal charm so great as the charm of a cheerful temperament.’ As a leader, you set the tone not only for yourself, but for your organization by the way you react to the things that happen to you.

A positive response is not a willful denial of reality as it exists. It is, however, the realization that it’s only a snapshot of one moment in the larger picture of your destiny. When you choose not to be defined by one negative moment, but rather redefine it for good, you have chosen a positive response.

The factor of a positive attitude. I like the lighthearted observation of Herm Albright who said, “A positive attitude may not solve all of your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.” A positive attitude in the midst of negative circumstances is exactly the right prescription to turn things around.

While no one can deny that Thomas Edison was a man of great accomplishment, it’s worth noting that he also suffered terrible setbacks as well. Yet it was Edison who said, “I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.” He chose an attitude that refused to be defeated when beset by failure, and chose the right attitude in all circumstances. The right attitude propelled him to unimaginable accomplishment and it will do the same for you.

The factor of positive perseverance. When you choose a positive response and attitude toward the circumstances you find yourself in, you will begin to experience exponential growth as a leader. The laws of reciprocity are set in motion by your negative reactions or by your positive ones. How that affects you is determined by the choice you make.

Emerson said, “That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has become easier.” While you still may face obstacles and challenges as a leader, you persevere not as one without hope, but as one who understands that his brightest days are still before him.

Champions like Martina Navratilova may have been stunned by news of cancer, and you may be reeling from the effects of the current economy, but I know that if your choice moving forward is a positive one, you are already one step ahead of the game.

© 2010 Doug Dickerson

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