The most powerful words that can go through a person’s mind are “I can’t, I won’t, and I’ll never.” These words can define every action that a person may do moving forward. These words can cause fear and stagnation about success.

In leadership, these words can create a timid, fearful, and reactive leader. This mindset may lead to many losing their jobs or creating a culture of toxicity, and even individuals becoming severely exposed to anxiety, depression, and developing bad habits. The key to becoming a servant leader is understanding that adversity is a tool that can lead to great self-discovery.

When was the last trial or hardship that you faced? What led up to those events that caused the situation to tip toward being difficult, and were you aware of the red flags that may have been all around?

More importantly, what did you do to handle and successfully move through that difficult period or situation? Was there something of great value that you learned? Is there something you can now share with someone else to prevent them from making the same mistake? Would it be valuable for them to face that tribulation to grow?

Today parents will do everything to prevent their children from being hurt or facing danger. They wish for them a life of happiness. Of course, this is what many would expect. But there is value in letting a child figure life out and providing guardrails for them to bump off occasionally.

Adversity can teach someone more about themselves than reading about others or studying history to learn how to navigate it. If we are to survive in the woods, then the actual practice or situation of survival would be beneficial to ensure the process can be repeated. Often that experience is based upon a specific situation in which those skills need to be developed, and not thought of as fight or flight.

 What does this have to do with servant leadership? Everything. The most outstanding leaders were those who understood they wanted the best for their teams and wanted to lead with a loving heart. They also understood that there was a time and place for their teams to face flight or fight to “survive.”

Just as when a child is given everything in the world, they lose the ability to understand the process of dealing with difficult situations. When adversity strikes, the coping process skills that are supposed to be there are not fully developed.

The ability to develop mental toughness, empathy, and necessary emotional intelligence is derived when a new stimulus is introduced to a situation. In the aspect of leadership, the more trials and tribulations a leader experiences, in theory, should grow that individual’s ability to process the best outcomes or lessons needed for survival. This is done if the individual can observe, process, diverge, and take action to resolve the conflict.

The protection of a leader’s team is a top priority if they lead with a servant’s heart. The leader should understand that nothing becomes stronger by staying weaker. It is hard to see teams or an entire organization face turmoil.

Still, understand that this opportunity may be needed to develop the essential skills to lead/learn through adversity. Just as a child may fall and skin their knees up, they will develop a scare and the ability to handle pain just a tad easier next time it happens.

From a leadership perspective, leaders and employees will fall and skin their knees while working for you. It’s okay to let them feel the pain, figure things out for themselves, and they will find their way. To those who cannot, then there is more work to do from a serving aspect to ensure they can either develop these skills or they may need to move on to a new career.

Either way, we will face adversity, especially in our professional lives. The key is that you can be a servant leader who will lead a person through the struggle without carrying them.

The key to learning how to be a servant leader is to never stop serving!

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