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Unpacking The Box on Dealing With Adversity

Updated: Jun 2, 2022

I was recently interviewed by a pastor and close friend of mine for a leadership initiative that he is spearheading. During the interview, he asked me how I responded to adversity as a leader who happens to be a former police officer, and what advice I could give to other leaders who face adversity in the performance on their duties.

I was never really conscious of it before, but law enforcement officers are pretty well conditioned to handle adversity. I've experienced adversity on so many levels, and that adversity ranged from life and death situations to financial and relational issues. As I thought about the question of how I deal with and walk through adversity, three words immediately came to mind: Control, Character and Composure.

1. Focus On What You Can Control

If you find yourself going through a trying season dealing with conflict and adversity, be sure to focus on the things that you can control. Don't get wrapped up in thinking about factors that are far beyond your control. Often times, we get emotionally swept away with hypotheticals and what ifs. As an officer, I always knew that I couldn't control other people, but I knew that I could control myself. By doing that, I became solution oriented instead of problem oriented. Rather than focusing on the problem in front of me, I learned to focus all of my energy on the solution to my problem.

2. Character Development

Your character is not defined by the things that happen to you, but rather by how you respond to and manage the things that happen to you. As a detective, I would always remind my victims that they had a choice in how they responded to tragedy. They could either be victims of circumstance or champions for change. And that is the real takeaway. Adversity develops character. It doesn't always feel good, but in the end you get a real sense of your own resilience. Never allow yourself to do or say anything that might cause your character to come into question.

3. Maintain You Composure

You will at some point in your life face various levels of adversity. There is also a good chance that you will encounter other people who are facing adversity. In order to effectively lead others through adversity, you have to be able to maintain your composure. People will pay attention to you and if you panic, others will surely panic. This is where your mindset really counts. If you think you can, you will succeed. But if you think you will fail, you more than likely will.


Ryan Dunlap is a conflict strategist and the founder of Conflictish, a conflict strategy consultancy dedicated to helping leaders navigate all of the 'ish that comes with conflict. From tarnished rapport to hellish attitudes to sluggish performance, Conflictish helps leaders get 'ish done.

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