How to Lead In the Face of Adversity

The word courage written on a piece of parchment laying on a table

How the dictionary defines adversity

The dictionary defines adversity as "difficulties or misfortune." Those seem like small words to define our often big problems that we experience in life. Adversity is often more like a large, scary looking problem that seems incredibly daunting.

This is even more challenging for leaders because it is often not just themselves, they might be worried about. Leaders could be worried about their team, employees, company or organization and be responsible for them. In our article guidebook for new leaders, we discuss how to best develop the connections with your team you need to have.

Examples of adversity

History provides a multitude of examples of leaders overcoming adversity. We have the ability as leaders to look back on the challenges and triumphs of others as examples of how we can move forward ourselves.

George Washington's strength at Valley Forge

Revolutionary War soldiers in a line

In the early stages of the Revolutionary War, George Washington found himself and his army in dire circumstances. They had suffered a series of terrible defeats and narrowly escaped complete annihilation at the hands of the British army. They barely escaped from Philadelphia after surrendering the city to the British.

Washington led his beleaguered 12,000-man army into Valley Forge with practically nothing. They had lost almost all their food and supplies in the retreat from the city and survival was anything but guaranteed. Washington mentioned in his memoirs how many of his troops didn’t even have shoes or proper clothing.

Over the next several months, Washington would watch 2,000 of his men die from disease, starvation or the elements. Not to mention, he somehow had to come out of the winter prepared to fight what was considered the best army in the world at that time.

Through sheer determination, will power and the support of many civilians, Washington got his army through the winter. He also managed, with the help of Baron Friedrich von Steuben, a Prussian drill master, to train his army and teach them to fight.

Winston Churchill's resilience