Navigating the Pitfalls of Success Communications Team October 26, 2023

Navigating the Pitfalls of Success

Hashim Mulangwa had the privilege to share with the YELP Class of 2023 the multifaceted concept of success and the obstacles one encounters on the path to achieving it.

The seminar on “Navigating the Pitfalls of Success: Leadership on the Line” had profound insights and we are delighted to share with you the valuable takeaways from the discussion on various aspects of success, leadership, and the challenges that come with them.

Success is subjective and can take various forms. It encompasses personal growth, achieving goals, financial stability, recognition, fulfillment, and making a positive impact. John C. Maxwell’s perspective on success as reaching one’s potential and sowing seeds that benefit others resonated with YELP Fellows. 

Grit and resilience were highlighted as indispensable qualities for success. Angela Duckworth’s work on “Grit” emphasized the importance of passion and persistent persistence. Overcoming adversity fosters resilience and perseverance, which are qualities crucial to success.

Hashim explored the essential role of change in the journey toward success. John P. Kotter’s “Leading Change” underscored the significance of critical thinking, problem-solving, and adaptability in navigating challenges and fostering success.

Ronald Heifetz’s framework for adaptive leadership was at the heart of the seminar discussion. Adaptive leadership calls for the ability to adapt to change, distinguish essentials from expendables, and effect change while maintaining operational stability. “Staying Alive While Leading” emphasized the importance of balancing personal and organizational risk.

Identifying Adaptive Challenges
Leadership would be straightforward if organizations only faced problems for which they already had solutions. However, there are a myriad of challenges that are not amenable to authoritative expertise and standard operating procedures.

One crucial aspect of adaptive leadership is recognizing challenges that require new learning. Adaptive challenges demand experimentation, discovery, and adjustments from multiple parts of an organization or community.

They necessitate learning new ways and changing attitudes, values, and behaviors. The deeper the change required, the more resistance there will be, making leadership a dangerous endeavor.

It was made clear that in the face of adaptive challenges, the people with the problem should be the ones to do the work, not just the authorities. The sustainability of change depends on having those affected by the change internalize it.

Leadership is Dangerous Business
It was essential for participants to acknowledge that leadership is inherently perilous. When we lead people through difficult change, we challenge what they hold dear—habits, tools, loyalties, and ways of thinking. People often find it difficult to give up their ways, especially for an intangible future.
It’s not change itself that people resist; it’s the loss that comes with it.

Leaders may appear dangerous when they question values, beliefs, or habits and place themselves on the line by telling people what they need to hear rather than what they want to hear.

The Response: To Leadership as a Dangerous Endeavor
In our pursuit of effective leadership, we must take a step back and gain perspective. We need to “get on the balcony,” maintaining the capacity for reflection even in the midst of action. This contemplation in action allows us to assess the reality and make informed decisions.

We should also think politically, emphasizing personal relationships and nurturing networks. Orchestrating conflict means managing differences and passions in a way that harnesses their potential constructively.

Finally, managing our hunger for power and control, affirmation and importance, and intimacy and delight is essential for maintaining balance.

As we continue our leadership endeavors, may we remember that leadership is a dangerous business, but with the right mindset and skills, we can navigate the pitfalls of success and emerge as effective, impactful leaders.

Hashim is an Independent Consultant – and Senior Faculty member of the LéO Africa Institute.