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Facing Up To Your Darkest Leadership Moment (And Coming Out On Top)

As a leader, you will likely face many dark moments. One will stand as the darkest, and it will take your supreme resolve to shift away from the fear of failure toward a place of knowing that change can successfully be achieved.

The Supreme Ordeal is the fifth phase of the Heroic Journey of the Leader.* This is the time when you feel stretched beyond your limits, tested against all your strengths and pushed to levels of break-through performance. It will manifest itself towards the end of the journey but before the vision is realized. This means that you (and everyone else involved) will be a mix of tired, impatient, and ready for the pendulum of fate to swing their way.

From my book, Lead Positive, the ASA shift is a tool for facing up to your darkest moment. Only then will the necessary transformation take place.

Acknowledge: The first step in facing your supreme ordeal is acknowledging what is not working. Identify your negative emotions and trace them back to the negative aspects of the ordeal. Acknowledge that the negative aspects are probably true, but don’t dwell. Dwelling is not helpful.

Scan: If you look more closely you will undoubtedly be able to glimpse some beneficial aspect of the current situation. Ask yourself: How can my team or I benefit from tackling this ordeal head on? Scan for one potential gain or upside. Think about the reward that will come with dealing effectively with the challenge.

Act: This is where the transformation begins. Take one step toward realizing the benefit you now see as possible. It may feel uncomfortable and awkward because it goes against your old way of thinking and acting but that’s okay—they weren’t working anymore anyway. Let go of what was in order to act on what could be. Feel how it makes the negative thoughts and feelings recede and brings you closer to victory.

The ASA shift helps you to reckon with what is not working without going into a negative downward spiral. Even the gravest and most supreme of ordeals offer assets that can yield benefits if leaders have the determination and courage to reckon with them.


*If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably know all about the Heroic Journey of the leader. It begins when the Hero/Leader answers the Call to lead their team or organization on the path to positive transformational change and ends when they survive a Supreme Ordeal that teaches everyone involved how to operate on a new higher level that changes the very fabric of the organization for the better.

Embarking on a journey of heroic proportions takes practice. It involves honing your skills and modeling the behavior you want your followers to have on a daily basis. Over the next few weeks, I will be digging deeper into each phase of the Heroic Leadership Journey to coach you, the Hero/Leader, on how you can live fully into each phase every day. For a primer on the phases of the Heroic Leadership Journey, read this.


Dr. Kathy Cramer

Kathryn D. Cramer, PH.D.
Founder and Managing Partner, The Cramer Institute