A Leader’s Survival Guide – Three Essential Resources

A Leader’s Survival Guide – Three Essential Resources organizational change and leadership

You’ve just taken on a new leadership assignment. And it’s the most daunting one of your career.

In fact, you’re not sure that you will be successful.

This new role has you hovering on the very edge of your comfort zone… perhaps even tipping over the edge, staring into an abyss.

Feeling nervous as you read this? Does it bring up any uncomfortable memories?

Are you wondering how you would survive a challenge like this?

You’re not alone!

And I mean this in both senses of the phrase. You are not alone in feeling like this. And you are not alone in facing this challenge; there are people available to support you.


Surviving as a Leader


Okay, I’ll admit it. The title of this newsletter is a little misleading.I can’t actually offer you a guaranteed ‘Survival Guide.’ I’m sorry to disappoint you.

But you probably didn’t expect that there would be something as simple as a guide  that could tell you what to do in every situation.

So here’s what I have to offer… Three Essential Resources that every leader can have available to them at all times.


Three Essential Resources



A leader should always be building their competence in the central skills and knowledge that define the leadership role. They are not acquired in the classroom. Nor are they simply gained from experience.

Rather, they build their skills and experience in four fundamental areas of the work that leaders do 1:

  • Relationship Mastery Forging relationships and collaborating with stakeholders
  • Strategy Mastery Organizing  and structuring work based on organizational priorities
  • Vision Mastery Sees  the biggest picture and appreciates multiple realities as future possibilities are imagine
  • Performance Mastery Acting  as an agent of change, influencing and directing action and innovation

These fundamental areas are accompanied by a fifth component Presence Mastery. This speaks to how leaders approach and conduct themselves. They engage their experience, they notice patterns and experience from multiple perspectives, they make meaning in order to understand experience, and they influence strategies for future experience.      



A leader works from a foundation of confidence. Which is very different from a base of arrogance…

Confidence is a cultivated quality. It draws on self-awareness, a realistic awareness of your own assets as well as your limitations. It is able to recognize when intuition and judgment can be relied upon and when they are self-serving and causing wilful blindness.

It also relies on social awareness, both of people and environments. It senses what is solid and changing slowly. And where things might change quickly or unexpectedly, and where more experimentation might be appropriate.

Confidence prevents a leader from being shut down by self-doubt. It gives them courage that they will find a path forward. They stay curios, knowing that they might be surprised by the unexpected. And, through their presence, they convey confidence to the people around them, positively impacting on emotions and resilience.



A leader works with the support of others. They know that there is no such thing as a solitary “hero” leader who will save everyone else from doom.

The leader’s community is rich and multi-dimensional. It is populated by bosses, peers, advisors, and team members.

Effective leaders appreciate the value of this community and regularly draw on it. You will recognize it in leaders who partners with:

  • A Coach In a confidential 1:1 relationship, the coach offers the leader a perspective on the issues confronting them and helps them learn about themselves and how they deal with these concerns.
  •  A Peer Group Whether  formal or informal, leaders reach out to and engage people in similar roles, gaining insights and examples from those who have faced similar issues.
  • Their Team Bringing in a wider range of experience and perspectives, a team helps the leader consider new information and take up experiments to learn what can be changed and what will not change easily.
  • Mentors Long-term relationships allow leaders to draw on those with more experience, whose guidance can help locate issues in familiar phases and developments.
  • Family Members Nurturing these important relationships helps a leader stay grounded, reminding them that life is more than work and career and that they do best when they show up as whole people (rather than fractured and with a siloed approach).


Thriving As A Leader


Does this feel like a lot? It probably does. But remember: You’re not alone!

While it’s true that it does take time and focus to develop competence, confidence, and community, you don’t have to do it alone. Here are some practical ways that you can be supported to thrive as a leader:

  • Work with an Executive or Leadership Coach.
  • Meet informally with other leaders in a forum like a roundtable discussion.
  • Join a formal Peer Group and benefit from a structured, hosted, learning program.
  • Strengthen your team, developing them to work effectively on shared goals.
  • Develop your organization by using planned change processes as a vehicle for learning and development.. 


What’s Next?


Are you interested in thriving as a leader?

Together with my RCA Associates, I work with leaders and their teams, building competence, confidence, and community as you lead change.

Sign up for an invitation to the next RCA Change Leaders Roundtable, a 75-minute gathering that I host once a quarter.

Contact me to learn more about how I tailor my proven solutions to address your unique needs, whether for individuals, groups, teams, or entire organizations. 


Learn about how leading change like a gardener is a fruitful approach

Pun intended! Listen to my recent podcast interview in which I discuss how the RCA Seasons of Growth framework guides growing organizations and their leaders!

1 – Rainey and Hanafin (2023) Leadership in the Age of Not Knowing NTL Institute

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