Holding Strong

by Ron Potter

For two years scientists sequestered themselves in an artificial environment called Biosphere. Inside their self-sustaining community, the Biospherians created a number of mini-environments, including a desert, a rain forest, even an ocean. Nearly every weather condition could be simulated except one, wind.

Over time the effects of their windless environment became apparent. A number of acacia trees bent over and even snapped. Without the stress of wind to strengthen the wood, the trunks grew weak and could not hold up their own weight.

Holding strong and enduring as a leader requires some “wind.” Adversity gives leaders an opportunity to strengthen themselves, discover what they believe, and communicate their vision and values to other people. There will be difficult times, but the difficult times—the windy days—help leaders grow stronger in their roles and in their faith and trust.

Holding strong comes with the turf. If you are standing strong for values and vision and for being a better leader, you will experience persecution and times of discouragement, adversity, and frustration.

Holding strong is a process. This is when a mentor can be so helpful by coming alongside the leader and objectively pointing out ways and opportunities to hold strong over an extended period of time.

Holding strong is also a journey. Doing the right thing can be stressful, complicated, and time-consuming, but ultimately, it brings fulfillment. Leaders need to focus on the small victories gained along the way. The journey builds character and confidence. The journey is rewarded when a leader sees the growth of his or her people, the growth of the business, and the achievement of the task.

After a career working at several jobs (railroad fireman, insurance salesman, Ohio River steamboat operator, and tire salesman), a forty-year-old man began cooking for hungry travelers who came by his service station in Corbin, Kentucky. He didn’t have a restaurant, so he served his eager customers on his own dining table in the adjoining living quarters.

It wasn’t long before more and more people came by to sample his food, so he moved his business across the street to a motel and restaurant. There he spent nine years serving customers and perfecting his special recipe for fried chicken.

In the 1950s “progress” caused the new highway to run around Corbin, and the man’s business ended. By this time he had retired and was living on his monthly $105 Social Security check. He began going from restaurant to restaurant, cooking his famous chicken. If the owners liked the recipe, a handshake agreement gave the restaurant the recipe in exchange for a nickel for every chicken dinner sold.

By 1964 this little endeavor had become a sizable business. The man, Colonel Harland Sanders, had licensed over six hundred franchises to cook his tasty chicken recipe. Ready to retire again, he sold his interest for two million dollars and became a spokesperson for the company. “In 1976, an independent survey ranked the Colonel as the world’s second most recognizable celebrity.”

Colonel Sanders did not allow himself to be defeated. He held strong and was not overcome by discouragement. How can we develop a similar attitude toward adversity?


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