From Crisis to a Proactive Life

In a week of executive education there was one woman who seemed to fully grasp even the most elusive points about positive leadership.  In one discussion she shared a personal account.  She spoke of some days when she gets out of bed recognizing that she is going to spend her entire day in deadly meetings.  The anticipation leads her to go to work with a zombie orientation.

On other mornings, she faces the same day of deadly meetings but she commits to be the energy source that brings life to those meetings.  When she takes this proactive orientation, she goes to work feeling fully alive.  Being aware of this difference, she is learning to make the choice to flourish more frequently.  She knows the quality of her life experiences are influenced by her choice of how to orient to the world.  One orientation is reactive and the other is proactive.

As the week progressed, she sought me out.  She wanted to share more.  She spoke of a profound crisis in which her husband walked out.  Soon after, her professional performance also hit bottom.  She told of a specific moment when she was making a presentation and a senior vice president used body language to communicate complete disdain for what she was saying.  She left the room feeling alone and desperate.

At that point, she had nowhere to turn.  Her only choice was to go inside herself and find out who she really was.  As she clarified her values, she slowly formulated a sense of vision and courage.  As she made new commitments, she had transformational insights.  A new life perspective emerged.  It was proactive and empowering.

Today she looks on her husband’s decision to leave in a most extraordinary way.  She sees it as an event that allowed her to learn and to grow.  She loves her new life.  Discouraging moments come but she usually uses them to put herself in a positive stance.  This includes her stance toward her husband.  When her ex-husband contacts her with issues that could easily be contentious, she chooses to transcend the natural reactions of fight and flight.  She becomes a purposive, positive deviant.  She knows that her highest purpose is the well-being of her children and not the punishment of her ex-husband.  By focusing on the long-term outcome she really wants to create, she more productively responds to the short-term challenges.



  • What did the crisis force her to do?
  • Why does she now see the process as positive?
  • Why is she now able to take such a proactive stance with her ex-husband?
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?



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