I watched my father’s dream business crumble in 1974. I was 13, and my dad will always be my first superhero because he was one of the best leaders I’ve ever known. He practiced some powerful virtues for leaders and what happened next shaped my life in profound ways. Who knew the lessons I learned as a kid would empower me to become a mindset and leadership coach to some of the world’s most famous people.

The OPEC oil embargo wiped my father’s business out along with millions of others and the jobs that went with them. Much like today with the tragedy of COVID-19, the economy came to a grinding halt and threw America into the perfect storm. 

Millions of small business owners and employees lost their income, jobs, and fell into the worst form of fear and regret. I got to watch my mother and father navigate through the darkness, and reinvent themselves through the disaster by starting a real estate business and emerging from the ashes.

The Best Leaders During Perfect Storms

How do the best leaders show up during tough times? It’s all about your “inner game” and mindset as a leader. If you’ve made a conscious decision you seek to be a better leader, good for you! Now, let’s learn how the best leaders inspire us during perfect storms.

Think about a time when you followed a leader you trusted and admired the most when times were tough. How did they show up? Chances are they showed up with courage, a new vision, resilience, and the ability to adapt. You trusted them enough to follow and do your part because they kept their cool and engaged with you in a meaningful, heartfelt way.

The only way this happens is through the complete transformation of the “inner game” of a leader. The best leaders embrace a constant and continual development of their inner game and ability to empower people and shape organizational culture. 

One of the best examples of virtuous leadership is how Doug Conant turned ailing Campbell Soup around by writing thousands of personal notes to express his gratitude for employees. Doug teaches us, “The action is the interaction” with people. That’s how leaders like Doug shape people, company culture, and drive better financial performance.

The Inner Game of Leadership

Welcome to the “inner game” of being a better leader today at home, work, and everywhere in between, even though millions of us are suddenly trapped at home wondering if we will have enough toilet paper to last us all.

Right now while the entire world is being taken by a pandemic storm, there are many leaders around us who know to take a bold, courageous, stand in the middle. These are the leaders who seem not shaken by fear or anything close to the panic we see at retail stores. While millions of terrified consumers fight each other in the aisles for paper products and dry beans nobody wanted before, the best leaders are engaging with their teams and adapting.

How do the best leaders show up differently during tough times, and what can we learn from them? The short answer is the best leaders know the virtues that shape our character, thinking or mindset, belief system, values, and behavior especially when the entire world seems to fall apart. Virtues are the traits and qualities that we carry. These show up in our thoughts, words, and actions.

Aristotle taught us happiness is the purpose of human life. His body of work is what’s know today as Virtue ethics. If we know and live the virtues, we will enjoy a better, happier life. The three virtues that I highlight for great leaders are known as theological virtues. The great saints like Saint Thomas Aquinas espoused the same ideals for humanity.

hand writing notes for your employees

Three Most Powerful Virtues for Leaders

Here are the three most powerful virtues that help the greatest leaders lead us through the toughest of times. Everyone who chooses to lead and empower others can benefit from embracing and practicing these virtues in all of our affairs.

  1. Faith. All great leaders believe in a power greater than themselves. Faith empowers us to believe more in goodness. Leaders with strong faith know their role is to serve and make a difference for others. We believe in people who have faith because we can easily sense their inner courage and desire to help us when we are broken.
  2. Hope. Have you noticed the leaders we trust and love to follow the most always have hope? Hope is one of the most powerful virtues for us to embrace especially when we fall into fear. When we have hope, we trust we will endure even the harshest extremes on earth. 
  3. Charity. Look back on any tragedy in human history and we witness the charitable giving of humans when any act of God or terror takes us by storm. In charity, we cherish our highest, respective power, and we “cherish” all others. When we cherish others as much as we do ourselves, we are kinder and more empathetic leaders.
leadership motto "always be bettering"

Now that you know about the core values or virtues we live as fearless leaders, how can you develop your “inner game” and become a better, more resilient, trustful leader?

Simple; practice these powerful virtues all day long.

The secret to being a great leader lives within you. What I call “Radical Clarity” for leaders is about knowing our truth. Deep inside we know what matters the most when we lead others. We take a strong stand and make it easier to align a team. The only way we keep the right people aligned with us, following and flanking us, is to lead a consistently virtuous life as best you can.

Now, here’s another big virtue to practice as a leader; forgiveness. There is not a single leader on earth who does not fall down or miss the mark. When great leaders make mistakes, we admit them promptly. Then we do our best to make things right for the people around us. So if you ever make a mistake as leader, forgive yourself and make a conscious decision to keep practicing with intention.

Morals, core values, character, and the living application in all walks of life is what makes the most trustful, genuine, and authentic leaders. Leaders know the key to happiness, success, and sustainability. It is all about mastering the “inner game.”. All experienced leaders know we have very little control of the outcome, if any at all. All we can control is the mindful process of increasing our awareness to be better and more virtuous leaders.

Virtuous leaders like my father are the leaders who can change the world because they always have.

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Cliff Jones

Cliff Jones

You can learn more about Cliff's story and coaching approach here.