written by Courtney Lynch

What are you most proud of?

Catch that thought that just popped into your head. That’s right, the very first one that appeared when you read the question. For me, the answer has little to do with achievement, and much more to do with a time where I was able to contribute beyond what I originally thought I was capable of. In my mid-20s, I became the primary caregiver for my then 87-year-old grandmother. What was supposed to be a one-year journey to support her transition to assisted living, turned into an eight-year, amazing adventure.

The most profound times of our lives are the situations and challenges we couldn’t have planned for; yet choice-by-choice and effort-by-effort we ended up making it through better off than when we started.

The key to surprising yourself with what you’re capable of is to stay open to discovering more on your journey. When faced with challenge, don’t default to “I can’t.” Instead, center on what you can try. The reward is the richness of experience and the awareness that your capability often extends far past what you can imagine being possible.

I’ve seen many examples of leaders stepping up to try during the pandemic:

  • The manager who made the ask of her greater department to donate leave for an employee who needed extended time off to recover from Covid.
  • The coach who expanded his team’s roster to take on more players so more kids could have the opportunity to play and exercise during online school.
  • The senior manager who went without pay for three months to retain junior team members.
  • The boss who wouldn’t accept a parent’s resignation so she could provide childcare for her kids; instead, he worked to create a flexible schedule for her to get through until schools reopened.

Each of these leaders approached challenges with an eye for how they could be of service to others, finding a way to make things happen, even when it meant sacrifice or extra effort. When you face challenge, focus on the try: the first step you can take to overcome it. Then, keep stepping, knowing that with the most difficult matters we face, the value is in the experience not the outcome. And, through it all, look for ways you can contribute to supporting others. That’s leadership.

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