I’ve asked some friends to bring their insights to the Leadership Freak community. Please give a warm welcome to today’s guest writer, Wally Bock.
Bishop Hanns Lilje was imprisoned by Hitler but I didn’t know that at first. He was a genial man who laughed often, one of my father’s German pastor friends.
Then I read his book, the Valley of the Shadow. That book is no longer in print, but in a few pages it told about how Lilje was imprisoned by the Nazis, first at the Moabiter Prison and then at Tegel in Berlin. He wrote about the little things the prisoners did for each other and the little things guards and visitors did to help each other and encourage each other.
The next time Bishop Lilje visited us in New York, I peppered him with questions. I was young. I wanted to know how he became a hero.
After enduring my interrogation for a while, Bishop Lilje sighed heavily. He leaned forward, his hands turned inward on his thighs. “When they knock on your door,” he said, “it’s too late to prepare.”
Adversity comes to all of us. When it does, it’s too late to prepare.
Prepare today by looking inward so you know who you are. Learn what’s important to you, what rules you will live by in tough times.
Prepare today by developing relationships. When times are hard or you’re lost in a moral fog, you need people who care about you to make it through.
Develop relationships today by doing your part. Often in those prisons, Bishop Lilje said, prisoners in solitary cells, who could not see another prisoner, lifted each other’s spirits by singing hymns.
Do what you can, every day, to make yourself a better person, a better friend, and a better leader. When adversity comes, it’s too late to prepare.
What can leaders do today to prepare for future adversity?
Wally Bock blogs about leadership at The Three Star Leadership Blog and about the writing that builds business at his Zero Draft Blog.
What a great quote: “When they knock on your door, it’s too late to prepare.”
I thought so too. It’s sobering but necessary to realize this truth.
Wally, this is a perfect post for Dan’s blog during his recovery. All the kindness, wisdom, and encouragement Dan gave to others BEFORE his accident served as preparation for this recovery time, when we all have a chance to give back to him.
Thanks for the reminder of the importance of developing relationships now.
I usually think of “being prepared” as doing things. I appreciate your advice that it’s really knowing who you are and what you stand for and putting the time into developing real, deep relationships with others. Thanks for a thought-provoking post.
In a more concrete variation, in May, 2011, Mercy St. John’s hospital in Joplin, Missouri was hit by an EF-5 tornado with winds exceeding 200 MPH. Do we not have an obligation to learn from that tragedy, so that we might be better prepared for adversity?
Some of their ‘lessons learned’ align with Mr. Bock’s point:
1) What you practice is what you will do.
2) Drill until you fail.
3) Build strong connections now.
4) Take care of yourself and your family.
And from Freeman Health System in Joplin- “As leadership goes, so goes the staff.” That practicing until you fail yields great (and uncomfortable) perspectives, internally and externally. Having to grind it out in long, stressful situations measures leadership moxie.
Often organizations are conflict avoidant on multiple levels with multiple rationales to hesitate to commit valuable resources to worst case scenarios. Do we not have a moral obligation to commit to learning?
Thank you all for the kind words.
Christian and Dan – It is a very powerful quote. The moment I described happened more than fifty years ago and I still remember it in powerful detail.
Becky – Thank you for giving us the opportunity to do this.
Jesse – Preparation certainly involves doing too, as Doc’s post below illustrates.
Doc – I spent many years training supervisors in high risk occupations like police and fire. I was privledged to witness Oakland’s response to the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989. The excellent, professional response then was based on a ferocious training discipline. You perform like you train.
Wally this is a well written, concise post about a topic that could go on and on. I found myself reading it, stepping away, coming back and still not being sure what there is to add.
I suppose the concrete example from my own life comes from August 1992 when my husband and I were driving from NY to FL after our wedding. Prior to August 1992, I had traveled I-95 many times in my life, and I had traveled sections that had guard rails down the middle of the interstate. Guard rails on the sides of the road made sense to me; guard rails on the middle seemed like … a waste … an illogical addition. All of that changed when the semi in front of me blew a tire and I started fishtailing in my efforts to evade them. After several 360’s on I-95 outside of Alexandria, VA, all of which were contained by the guardrail in the middle of the interstate, I understood. My “knock on the door” was going 65 miles per hour on the southbound interstate and lack of prepration would have easily resulted in a severe injury or fatality.
My story is a case where I am glad that some entity took responsibility for preparing for the worst. I suppose how that comes around to your question is that leaders need to be responsible for assessing the “good” and “bad” possibilities in order to attempt to have measures in place so that work proceeds effectively.
Yes, forethought, insight, discernment, meditation – not the empty you mind kind, the deliberate thinking kind. Great advise Mr. Bock.
“Prepare today by looking inward so you know who you are. Learn what’s important to you, what rules you will live by in tough times.”
A great reminder to think about core values when everything is going GREAT!
Your thoughts about the importance of networking resonate with me as well. Thanks for sharing, Wally.
And Dan, thanks for continuing to learn and share in the laboratory of life…glad to “hear” you are recovering and learning at the same time!
Adversity prepares person to face challenges. Adversity teaches lesson to us. The person experienced adversity has more likely to prepare for future circumstances. The person never faced adversity is more likely to fail because he or she has never thought about it. So, I believe, to be successful, one needs to have adversity in life.
I always believe in doing effort to the fullest level. I also believe in being unsatisfied and looking better ways to improve and develop. So, the places, or organizations, that have unpredicted, biased and unethical culture actually teaches us many lessons. Ideal organizations or complacent people actually make us passive and directionless. We should know our responsibility and do our responsibility with great effort and commitment. I strongly believe that when we discharge our responsibility with accountability, then we can face any adversity with enthusiasm.
Hi Mr. Bock and Dan.
Excellent post to ruminate on in light of recent adversities. People face challenges every day of their lives and their attitude will in large part determine whether failure follows or resilience shines. Positive dispositions help us to understand the “curve balls” thrown at us and we need to look deeper into hidden meaning meant exclusively for us at the precise moment adversity strikes. We all have many different doors surrounding us and it is quite impossible to be equally and adequatedly prepared for them all. Each event will make us stronger for the next which is always just around the corner.
I remember as a young man driving my MGB from Madrid to Zaragoza on a cold rainy night and swerving off the road and having a huge rock stop my spinning. The car would not budge and it was pitch black. When morning came the hood of the car was draped over the ledge of a precipice. The boulder had broken the axle but had also stopped the car and saved the lives of my fiancee, my future brother in law and my own. That certainly became a life changing event among many others that would follow.
“Tomorrow is promised to no one” so the present is always precious and we should make every atttempt to “touch” as much and as many as we can. Life can turn on a dime and there is not always time to RSVP with our intentions. Embracing adversity and clutching it fervantly will help us be stronger. It is the wise man that can grow from weakness and at the same time set an example giving us all courage we will need for those special moments.
During this holiday season we all have a lot to be grateful for. 🙂
Thank you all for the kind words. I think this is one of those cases where comments complete the post. Writing the post gave me the occasion to remember and meditate on Bishop Lilje and his life and trials. Reading the comments brings the light of others’ experiences and thoughts to the post.