A Leader’s Response to Adversity


“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

and that has made all the difference.”

~ Robert Frost  

What is the difference between those who lead and those who don’t – the ability to make and sustain quality decisions in times of adversity.  Crossroads normally result from adversity.  And when standing at the crossroads of life, approaching a two-way intersection, choice becomes inevitable. When some people experience setbacks, depression and despondency seem to overwhelm them and in fact, presents itself as reasonable responses.  However defining circumstances also require a defining choice.  Depression and despondency causes some people to fade into obscurity.

But not leaders; leaders have a peculiar mindset!  Leaders know that the adversity contains valuable lessons, seeds of wisdom waiting to be discovered.  John Maxwell says that in life, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.”   Leaders choose to take “the road less traveled by” that of becoming cognizant of lessons learned and applying such lessons to the next effort.

Thus leaders, when faced with adversity find a way to recover, regroup, and recharge.

  • Recover.   Setbacks are delays, detours, but often not denial.  Incidents may occur which delay the fulfillment of our dreams without killing the dream.  Leaders can recover from setbacks by exercising faith, patience, and tenacity which leads them through such predicaments.
  •  Regroup.   Sometimes, setbacks can so impact our spirit until we need a time to regroup and compose ourselves.  In these moments, we need to get in touch with our purpose, our vision, our dream.  We need to ask ourselves is it worth it?  One wintry night in January 1956, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was unable to sleep.  It had been one month since the start of the Montgomery Bus Boycott; threats on his life and that of his family were constant.  Dr. King relates in The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Carson 1998) that he settled in to bed late after a strenuous day.  Coretta had already fallen asleep and just at as he was about to doze off the telephone rang.  An angry voice said, “…., we’ve taken all we want from you; and before next week you’ll be sorry you ever came to Montgomery.”  Dr. King said, “I hung up, but I couldn’t sleep.  It seemed that all of my fears had come down on me at once.  I had reached the saturation point.”  Dr. King had heard these things before, but for some reason that night it got to him.  He turned over and tried to go to sleep, but he couldn’t sleep.  He was frustrated, bewildered, so he got up and began to walk the floor.  Finally, he went to the kitchen and got a pot of coffee.  He was ready to give up.  With his cup of coffee sitting untouched before him, he tried to think of a way to move out of the picture without appearing a coward.  He sat there and thought about his beautiful little daughter who had just been born.  He would come in night after night and see that little gentle smile. He started thinking about a dedicated and loyal wife, who was over there asleep.  Coretta could be taken from him, or he could be taken from her.  Dr. King said he had reached the point where he couldn’t take it any longer.  He was weak. It was at that moment that he heard a voice which said, “You can’t call on Daddy now;  you can’t even call mama.  You’ve got to call on that something in that person that your daddy used to tell you about, that power that can make a way out of know way.”  With his head in his hands, he bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud:   “Lord, I’m down here trying to do what is right.  I think I’m right.  I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right.  But Lord, I must confess that I am weak now, I’m faltering.  I’m losing my courage.  Now, I am afraid.  And I can’t let the people see me like this because if they see me weak and losing my courage, they will begin to get weak.  The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand up for them without strength and courage, they too will falter.  I am at the end of my powers.  I have nothing left.  I’ve come to the point where I can’t face it alone.  Once the prayer was done,  Dr. King said he could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice saying “Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness.  Stand up for justice.  Stand up for truth.  And lo, I will be with you even until the end of the world.” Dr. King said, “At that moment I experienced the presence of the divine as I had never experienced him before.  Almost at once my fears began to go.  My uncertainty disappeared.  I was ready to face anything. This was Dr. King’s defining moment.  This moment solidified Dr. King as the leader of the civil rights movement.   When you experience setbacks, take some time to meditate and critically revisit your dream.  The strength of knowing your dream is valid and based on truth is powerful enough for you to regroup and move forward.
  • Recharge. Think it through then push the body through.  Once you have accepted the outcome of the setback, you can confidently strategize to regain the advantage.  Leaders look realistically at where they are now and then visualize what actions they must take to regain their peak performance.  The distance between adversity and success can be forged as you maintain a healthy perspective of discontent.  Recover, regroup, and then recharge.  When you recharge you visualize yourself working through the necessary steps to regain your position and then to initiate those actions that will take you further along your envisioned goals.  Announce your plans to others in your field and on your team and ensure to set new deadlines for achieving these goals.  Motivate yourself and others using genuine optimism and faith that you will overcome this adversity.  Surround yourself with others who have either made this stride or are undergoing the same process and collaborate with them.  In other words, develop a winning team and reestablish yourself as a winner in your field.



Published by Earl J. Griffin, Sr.

As a John Maxwell Certified Coach, Teacher and Speaker, I can offer you workshops, seminars, keynote speaking, and coaching, aiding your personal and professional growth through study and practical application of John’s proven leadership methods. For over 40 years, my tract record as a proven leader has been exemplary both in the United States Army and as a Pastor in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. As a John Maxwell Certified Coach, Mentor, and Speaker, I use this expertise and experience to help leaders grow to their full potential. Coupled with my John Maxwell Certification is my Master of Science degree in Leadership Development, from Walden University. I am uniquely skilled at helping corporate leaders in the areas of human resources development programs, middle and executive leader development programs, and mentoring practices within the workplace. Both my professional time as an Organizational Development Specialist within the United States Army and my tenure as Senior Pastor within my church help me assist leaders in resolving the ethical dilemmas of leadership and developing the cultural skills necessary to lead in diverse multi-cultural organizations. Let's develop a sustainable relationship that benefits both your organization and that helps you achieve your personal leadership goals.

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