Receive a Free Gift: 25 Extravagant Listening Tips for Leaders

Receive a Free Gift: 25 Extravagant Listening Tips for Leaders

NorthWise Blog

        A leadership blog dedicated to inspiring leaders to ignite flourishing.

When Leaders Face Hard Truth - Rx for Growth

Todd Kemp - Tuesday, November 01, 2016

"Whoever said life was fair?" - Mr. Robinson, my 4th & 5th grade teacher - 

Have you ever been around someone who gets unreasonably bent out of shape when bad things happen? They’re unwilling to accept that a problem has visited them. Or they succumb to the ostrich effect, ignoring the trouble hoping it will pass. Either way, they get stuck.

Organizations devolve quickly when people cannot accept hard reality.

This is especially true when it’s the leader who doesn’t handle hard truth well.

Consider "Troy," the executive leader of a local non-profit. In the early days of his tenure, Troy was excited about the mission. Unfortunately, his blind spots proved bigger than the Board had realized when they selected him. It quickly became evident that Troy wasn't willing to accept the reality of the defections of supporters, staff feeling disengaged, and the Board's growing disapproval of his leadership approach.

Though he was given ample time to turn things around, he couldn't. With donations, supporters, and mission effectiveness dwindling, Troy left the organization, feeling hurt by nearly everyone. He had a hard time facing hard reality, and it cost the organization time, money, and impact.

Life is a series of problems to solve.

Let’s face it. Sometimes projects unravel, partnerships fracture, and math problems get tough. That’s how life works – we encounter a series of problems to solve.

Gift of Struggle

One of the most insightful communications I’ve ever received from my kids’ schools came from a middle school math teacher at the beginning of the school year. In the letter, she urged parents to give their students the “gift of struggle.” Don’t give them the answer, she said. Help them work the process so they can get better at solving problems. “Good,” I thought. I’ve already been through 7th grade, and once was enough!

As we grow our character, competency, and capacity for handling challenges, we get better problems to solve.

Life is Difficult

In his bestselling classic book, The Road Less Travelled, Scott Peck wrote “Life is difficult.” He continues:

“This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

Life is hard. Engage obstacles as opportunities to grow in new dimensions.

As my son and I were mountain biking on a beautiful summer day in Colorado, we saw this huge boulder alongside the trail, pictured above, that depicts this reality.

Consider this “hard truth” from the perspective of the sapling pine under the boulder as it began growing. At some point, growing straight up was no longer an option. It reached a “crisis” point and oriented itself toward the new growth opportunity, towards sunlight and around the boulder.

As Henry Cloud writes, "Reality is always your friend." Or as Solomon said, "Buy the truth and do not sell it - wisdom, instruction and insight as well."

Everyone Wins When Leaders Embrace Growth

When leaders accept the hard aspects of life and embrace growth opportunities, they unleash five life-giving benefits:

  • increased resilience
  • more capacity to accomplish the mission
  • inspire others to better work and better living
  • new outcomes for themselves and their team
  • honor those who have invested in them

As Bill Hybels says, “Everyone wins when a leader gets better.”

Now Enrolling for LEAP 2017 – a Leadership Growth Program

We’ve just launched the 2017 yearlong experiential leadership development program – Leadership Excellence & Accelerator Program (LEAP) – specifically designed to help build leadership capacity from the inside out. Take a look at it here.

I’d love to have you consider this cohort as a growth investment in 2017 for you or your key leaders.


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Todd Kemp

Todd Kemp


Todd believes that great leaders ignite flourishing and propel noble missions. He loves engaging leaders who value their own growth, are passionate about their people and earn profit for a greater purpose.

Since 2004, Todd has worked with CEOs and Business Owners, helping them build value in their organizations and multiply their capacity for being trusted leaders. As President of Sunbelt Business Advisors, a business brokerage, Todd worked with over 100 companies helping them buy, sell or reposition their firms. In addition to leading a $350M tech sales region at a Fortune 150, he earned entrepreneurial scar tissue by co-founding a software venture and acquiring a retail business.”

A graduate of Stanford University, Todd played on two NCAA Championship water polo teams. He lives with his bride and two teenage children at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Todd enjoys mountain biking, hiking, investing time with family and making mango salsa.