Firefighter challengesPeople are always watching how we handle difficult situations and judge our character accordingly. To be successful, you need to understand this and use it to your advantage. If success was easy, it wouldn’t be worth it, would it?

We are faced with challenges every day. Some small, some massive, but challenges nonetheless. The goal in life is not to ask for fewer problems, but more solutions – as Jim Rohn was always so apt to point out. So how well do you rise to challenges? How do you make sure that you use each challenge as an opportunity to grow, develop, and strengthen your character?

Well, there is a very simple model to help you understand what to do when you are faced with a situation. And more importantly, a way for you to develop your leadership skills in the process.

Remember these three words:

  1. React
  2. Respond
  3. Initiate

In each situation, you can do one of these three things.


The easiest thing to do is to react. It shows you are out of control. That your emotions rule your decisions, and that the situation controls you. Sure, you may have a bad temper sometimes, or get emotional, but what do you want to be known for? The person who they have to be careful around because of how they may react?

“Oh that’s just Jim, he always flies off the handle.”


The second easiest thing to do is to respond. This shows that you are thoughtful. That your emotions don’t cloud your judgment and that you take time to think about the challenge before you make a response. You are prepared. The response will leverage your experience, maturity, and intellect to try and come up with a solution to the challenge.

“Let’s ask Susan, she will know how to deal with this.”


The hardest thing to do is to initiate. This is where you create change. You don’t wait for situations to arise, but instead, pre-emptively diffuse challenges before they happen. You can see around corners, you anticipate, and you are proactive. Based on your experience, can you predict when certain circumstances will lead to a problem and work out a solution before the problem happens? Can you change the systems around you to reduce the chances of problems happening in the first place? Can you cultivate deep relationships with people around you, so that when a challenge happens, everyone approaches it from a place of understanding? Before you are candid with an employee, have you previously been caring? Think about all the ways that you could have been two steps ahead of a problem. Is your husband or wife mad at you for this situation, or for something that has been going on for a month that you haven’t addressed?

Taking an initiators mindset will help build your abilities, deepen your relationships, and establish you as a leader.

Amateurs react. Managers respond. Leaders initiate.


“The most common reason people don’t overcome the odds is that they don’t challenge them enough.” – John Maxwell

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I would love to hear your comments on and how you have applied these ideas to YOUR challenges.


Joe Girard
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    9 replies to "How Leaders Deal With Challenges"

    • Jacqueline McAdam

      Nice blog…well done!

      • Joe Girard

        Thanks Jacqueline! Do you have any examples of how this may have worked for you in the past?

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