Perseverance: How Great Leaders Overcome Adversity


We’ve all heard some variation of the famous Thomas Edison quote, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Edison’s perseverance led to the invention of the lightbulb. Similarly, the true mark of successful leaders is not shown in their successes, but in their failures. In leadership and in life, failure presents opportunities for growth and learning in a way not possible if everything came easy.

What Is Perseverance in Leadership?

Perseverance is bigger than just not giving up. When you’re in a leadership role, perseverance is more of a problem-solving process that includes encountering a challenge, understanding why the challenge exists, finding a way to overcome the challenge and, above all, learning from the entire experience.

Why Perseverance Is Important

Perseverance doesn’t come naturally to everyone, even people who may seem like they were born to be leaders. Think of perseverance not as a leadership trait but more as a leadership skill that needs to be nurtured and developed. With every challenge you face as a leader, you have an opportunity to improve your perseverance skills. This is not just important to your success as a leader, but also to the success and development of your team.

When you demonstrate perseverance, you are:

  • Better prepared to face adversity in both your business and your personal life.
  • Setting a good example for your team.
  • Increasing your ability to solve problems.
  • Improving your mental health.
  • Growing as a person and becoming more resilient.

When you teach your team perseverance, they will demonstrate:

How to Improve Your Skill to Persevere

While the ability to persevere may not be something that you were born with, there are ways to build upon it like any other skill in your toolbox. Here are five ways you can improve your skill to persevere:

  1. Be willing to take risks. If you remain in your comfort zone and never take risks, you will never stretch yourself. In order to practice perseverance, first you must be willing to take risks and see what happens. These do not need to be big risks; start small – set a larger goal than you may normally have, increase your quotas, or take on some additional responsibilities.
  2. Build a support network. Failure and perseverance go hand in hand. So when you fail – and you will – make sure you have a support network to fall back on and encourage you to not give up. Your support network can also be there every step of the way encouraging you to keep going. Whether it’s coworkers, your teammates, or even your family outside of work, it’s important to have a strong network supporting you.
  3. Keep your goals in mind. Write your goals down to keep them top of mind. Use a sticky note on your desk or a whiteboard in your office – wherever you can see them frequently and be constantly reminded. This way, even when you fail, you’ll be reminded of what you’re trying to achieve, so you can pick yourself up and try again.
  4. Determine clear benchmarks. Once you’ve set your goal, set benchmarks along the way to mark your progress. Work towards these benchmarks one at a time and before you know it, you’ll be achieving your goals.
  5. Practice self-care. Failure is hard. It can wear on us mentally, and physically. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself as well, so you are mentally prepared to work towards your goals. Eat right, sleep well, get proper exercise. If you’re taking care of yourself, you’ll find it’s much easier to persevere when faced with challenges.

Overcoming Adversity to Become a Successful Leader

Perseverance alone doesn’t make a successful leader; it’s also in who you lead, how you lead, and how you communicate. For more on leading teams to success, check out the Culture of Convenience podcast episode 78 “Assembling the Avengers and Overcoming Adversity.”

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