Saturday, July 6, 2013

Summer Reading Series: How Leaders Can Turn Lemons into Lemonade

With the arrival of summer, we all have some additional time to catch up on our reading. Do you need some recommendations? My summer reading series will introduce you to a diverse selection of insightful marketing and management books. Without further ado, here’s the third book of the Debbie Laskey Summer Reading Series.

As a leader, how do you define challenges in the workplace? How do you triumph in difficult times? Alan Graham, Kevin Cuthbert, and Karlin Sloan characterize workplace challenges as “lemons” in their book, Leadership, The Leader’s Guide to Resilience at Work. Some of these lemons or challenges include low morale, lack of resources, downsizing, and competition – but these authors explain that it’s easy to make lemonade from lemons.

So what’s the key? The key to turning lemons into lemonade as a leader is resilience. The examples below offer inspiration, but note, leadership development and failure are intertwined.

  • Richard Branson created Virgin Atlantic and owns 360 companies, but he also has dyslexia and was a poor student.
  •  Famous Beatle singer and musician Paul McCartney applied to join the choir of the Liverpool cathedral but was not accepted.
  • Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for his activism from 1964-1990, but in 1994, he became the President of South Africa.
Leadership and resilience go hand-in-hand. According to the book, there are three domains of resilience:

  1. Relationship to Self: “Leadership requires us to know ourselves…it requires self-confidence, self-management, and overall perspective that we have the power to effect positive change.”
  2. Relationship to Others: “Leaders cannot lead without followers – so this domain is critical for everyone in a leadership role.”
  3. Relationship to Environment: “Leaders with a positive relationship to their external environment are goal-oriented, future-minded, purposeful, and proactive. They are able to reframe whatever comes at them no matter the scenario.”
So how does a leader turn lemons into lemonade? Above all, they don't react to situations, they make their own. Here's an example:
LEMONS/SITUATION: Members of my team hate each other. 

LEMONADE/RESULT: It’s time to address the corrosive personalities that are stopping us from working at our best. I have the opportunity to step up as a leader and set the parameters for a more positive working environment – and I can reframe the situation.

In the words of Graham, Cuthbert, and Sloan: “Make your own personal brand of lemonade…Stay inspired by reading and watching resilience stories wherever you can find them. And tell your own! Leaders who can tell their own stories of making lemonade inspire others to do the same.”

A final note: I wish to thank the team at Karlin Sloan & Company. As a result of a contest on Facebook, I won a copy of this book – and am now a believer in the “turn lemons into lemonade” theory.

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