Exploring Leadership: A Personal Journey Part 6 – Interview Question: What were some of your biggest successes or greatest challenges?

This blog is part of a series.  Last year, I embarked on a personal development project with the aim of discovering what skills I would need to become the leader I had always looked for. I identified successful leaders from nonprofit, corporate and education backgrounds and asked them the same series of six questions, the results of which are shared in this 8-part series.  Use the arrows at the bottom of the page to navigate between the related posts.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

If you reflect on your own biggest successes and greatest challenges, are they connected?  For the group of leaders I interviewed, they clearly were.  What they identified were experiences of rising above the challenges.  Of creating a vision and still moving forward to create that vision, even when they felt inexperienced and unprepared.  Simply put, these leaders are resilient.  Merriam Webster defines resiliency as an ability to recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change.  I started writing this post before the pandemic and stay-at-home orders were in effect and there was no way I could have predicted how relevant this topic of resiliency would become.

Our world has been shut down and life as we have known it no longer exists.  As a collective, we have been forced to change and adapt, and some of us have been better at this than others.  Whether we live alone and have lost human contact, or we are working and schooling from home, or we are a single parent and an essential employee, it is undeniable we are all facing new and unfamiliar situations. How we navigate them is up to us.

That is what I learned from this elite group of leaders.  What was it that made it possible for them to overcome challenges that others deemed impossible?  I found two commonalities in their responses.  The first was their MINDSET.  They choose to view challenges and setbacks as opportunities to learn, grow and innovate.  The second was a PURPOSE, a purpose outside of themselves.  They kept going to positively impact the lives of others, whether it was their children, their employees or their community at large.  This larger purpose is what continued to drive them through the marathon of long hours and desperate days when fear and anxiety took over.

It is easy, especially right now, to get caught up in the everyday stresses and to sometimes feel overwhelmed by the seemingly insurmountable challenges we face.  In order to successfully overcome them, we can intentionally choose how we respond.  We can monitor our mindset and when, naturally, we do find ourselves caught in the weeds, find a way to focus on that larger purpose to re-energize and move forward.  This of course, is easier said than done, but like anything, the more you practice, the more naturally it will happen.  I’ve decided to learn from the leaders I interviewed and have intentionally chosen to view this particularly difficult and unpredictable situation as an opportunity. Now is the perfect time for us to practice this MINDSET, solidify our PURPOSE and strengthen our resiliency as we move forward.


  1. Click here if you’re interested in learning more about workshops that help develop and shift your MINDSET.  After completing these leadership interviews, one of the reasons I was personally drawn to Relā is their focus on mindset during their leadership development programs.         
  2. If you’re interested in exploring the idea of PURPOSE further, check out At the Heart of Leadership by Joshua Freedman.  Instead of the word purpose, he uses the term “Noble Goals” and he has an entire chapter dedicated to how you can identify and develop your own “Noble Goal.”  

NEXT: Exploring Leadership: A Personal Journey Part 7 – Interview Question: What have you found to be helpful in your personal/professional development?

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