Breakthrough Leadership is Tough

Breakthrough leadership is tough. Leaders and businesses face all sorts of challenges. They get problems with processes or systems. While they started with a great business idea, and they have a great product or service, their creativity stalls. Leaders get frustrated with issues around people and, and the business has money problems. Marketing is a pain: it’s difficult to be distinctive and to know where to spend money to generate new business. It’s usually not all bad news, lots of enterprises enjoy relative success, but high or breakthrough growth seems an illusion.

How to tackle that illusion? I reckon there are three well-known layers to look at: leadership; strategy; and the business itself. I’ll deal with the last two in another post, but here’s my take on leadership.

Strong, Tough and Learned

It’s about character strengths, mental toughness, and learning through moments.

Leadership is the ultimate test of character. It’s about setting direction so that the business creates value for its customers and owners. To be comfortable with plotting the course and executing it, leaders need to be in touch with who they are. They need to know their core strengths, as well as those strengths that are less developed. They need to work from their core and condition themselves to build the others.

Leadership is tough, and leaders themselves need to be robust. Mentally tough leaders know how to meet challenges, and they are confident. They understand the meaning of commitment and the importance of control.

Failing to learn is learning to fail. One of my great frustrations in practicing, researching, and observing leadership over several decades, is the inability of some managers and aspiring leaders to learn from failures, their own, or others’. How we make decisions in every aspect of our lives builds on developing our own operating rules (called heuristics). We establish and revise these rules through lived experiences, including formal learning, but more so living life.


So, for me, leadership is about balancing character strengths with mental toughness, and the capacity and willingness to learn from life’s moments. If these three are in harmony, leaders can meet just about any challenge.

Great Leaders

If you look at some of the great leaders of history and of recent times, most were flawed. But, if you dig in under the flaws, you will see the common themes: strong characters, mentally tough, and always willing to learn from their errors and the examples of others.

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