leadership incorporated blog

January 19, 2010

Inspired to Succeed: When things go wrong

One of the most powerful things we can do as leaders is to recognize that teachers surround us.

A year or so ago, I became friendly with an indie film director who had joined a network marketing organization to support herself in between projects. She had rapidly become a leader in that organization.

She’d been presenting to small rooms of people with great success.

I’d been invited to her first presentation in front of a large room of people.

People had come in from all over the country for the event.

They’d found an exciting location. Had thought of every possible detail.

They’d done a great job of mobilizing the team.

It was a standing-room-only turnout.

The afternoon was running like clockwork.

She’d gotten an energized introduction from another dynamic leader in the company.

She had bounded forward, instantly commanding the attention of everyone in the room.

She clicked on the controller to activate the Powerpoint and…


The screen was blank.

I will never forget what happened next, both for the speed with which it happened and the clarity of her action.

I learned something that will stick with me the rest of my life.

It took her less than a nanosecond.

She clenched both fists in the air and pulled them into her body in a victory gesture.

She didn’t exactly shout, but there was a plenty of energy in her next word:

“Excellent!” she said. “I hated that Powerpoint anyway.”

She proceeded to create an entirely different, entirely personalized, entirely new presentation on the spot.

I’m told that they exceeded all previous meeting sales records that day.

What happens when you let the unexpected throw you?

When things go wrong – and you can expect that they will – how does your reaction add to the final outcome?

What if you chose excitement over anger? Creativity over stress?

What new productivity might become possible if you saw whatever happens as an opportunity to do it differently? To see it in a new way? To demonstrate true leadership?

Because it’s not the ability to stand in front of a room that makes a leader, it’s the ability to step into the unknown and show others how it’s done.

This week, I invite you to play with this idea. When things don’t go your way, pump your arms in the air, say “Excellent!” and see what opportunities present themselves.

Have an inspired week.


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