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Leadership: Leaders, Followers, Environments by Art Padilla

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Resiliency and perseverance

The book Good to Great focused on 11 corporations that had experienced several years of bad performance immediately followed by 15 years of superior accomplishment.34 Although the methods used in selecting these companies and the generalizability of results have been roundly criticized,35 the basic message about the characteristics of the CEOs of these successful corporations echoes research conclusions elsewhere.36 It was found, among other things, that the leaders of the selected companies appeared to be humble team players as well as extraordinarily and unusually persistent and resilient individuals.

A common misunderstanding about well-known leaders is that they are successful much of the time. In fact, many of them fail a lot. The list is long: Margaret Thatcher, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, Adolph Hitler, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Roberto Goizueta (former CEO of Coca-Cola), F. W. Woolworth (retailing giant), Lee Iacocca (Ford and Chrysler chairman) all had great failures before, during, and after their personal or organizational successes. But successful people tend to be preternaturally persistent and resilient. They don’t give up easily. Ernest Hemingway, in his novel A Farewell to Arms, referred to resiliency this way: “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” Resiliency, the ability to bounce back, to persist and to play a poor hand well, is of special interest because it has early childhood roots ...

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