Bright Future, Brutal Facts
mage Courtesy of Military.com

Brighter Future, Brutal Facts

As the highest-ranking United States military officer in the Hỏa Lò POW camp at the height of the Vietnam War, Admiral Jim Stockdale carried a heavy burden. During his eight-year stay at the Hanoi Hilton (as it was known), Stockdale was tortured over twenty times. He endured this challenge with no prisoner’s rights, no set release date, and no certainty as to whether he would survive to see his family again. On top of these difficulties, Stockdale carried the weight that comes with leadership. For him, that meant doing everything he could to create conditions that would increase the number of prisoners who would survive unbroken, while also fighting an internal war against his captors and their efforts to use the prisoners for propaganda. Despite these challenging circumstances, Stockdale led his men, and they loved him.

Reflecting on this unenviable season of leadership, Stockdale offers this advice to leaders. “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” Stockdale’s counsel to lead from both faith and fact is more than just the opinion of an American hero; according to management research, this guidance captures what great leaders and organizations do in moments of difficulty. They champion the hope of a brighter future while confronting and addressing the most brutal facts of their current reality. Research demonstrates this approach helps organizations survive the moment and emerge on the other side of the crisis prepared to thrive.

As we close another week, let’s examine our approach to COVID-19. Are we championing hope? Are we properly acknowledging the brutal facts of our reality? Here are some questions that may help us assess whether we are honoring Stockdale’s counsel.

Are We Championing Hope?

  • Are we focusing on what’s most important and working to achieve it?
  • Are we celebrating daily victories, both large and small?
  • Are we sharing stories of past struggles and how we overcame them together?
  • Are we talking about our organizational future with excitement?
  • Are we talking about what’s possible (i.e., what our mission and vision call us to do) before we talk about what’s feasible (i.e., what our resources may limit us to do)?
  • Are we looking for new opportunities to fulfill our mission that arose because of our current reality?
  • Are we building relationships with our team members through increased communication?
  • Are we encouraging our teams to be innovative in their work?

Are We Acknowledging the Brutal Facts of our Reality?

  • Are we planning for a potential lengthy disruption in normal operations?
  • Are we managing cash by renegotiating contracts, leveraging lines of credit, deferring capital projects, etc.?
  • Are we developing multiple budgets that reflect varying levels of revenue, expenses, etc.?
  • Are we examining whether our revenue streams are diverse enough?
  • Are we analyzing whether our service/product lines are relevant in changing market conditions?
  • Are we exploring how we can alter the delivery of our service/product lines for changing market conditions?
  • Are we grading our crisis performance in key areas (e.g., agility, decision-making, communication, etc.)?
  • Are we identifying gaps in our performance and creating plans to address them?

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Final Thought: Let’s give ourselves and our organizations the opportunity to be resilient and adaptable by combining hope with a healthy sense of reality. Not only will this help during the current crisis, but we’ll also be better positioned to address our future.

Ethos Leadership Group, LLC

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Carol Payne

Ethos Team:

Carol Payne

Operations Assistant

Carol joined Ethos in 2020 after working in revenue cycle management and operations for non-profit and for-profit organizations. A natural helper, Carol takes pride in completing operational tasks that allow her teammates to focus on client-facing work. Carol particularly enjoys preparing Ethos’ daily tweets and bi-weekly leadership content for publication.

Fast Facts:

  1. Lived in 10 states before settling in West Virginia in 2012
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  3. Enjoys reading and spending time with her family
Aaron Ray, Project Analyst

Ethos Team:

Aaron Ray

Project Analyst

Aaron joined Ethos in 2022 after working in the behavioral health field in various roles, including being a counselor and an adjunct professor. A researcher at heart, Aaron works behind the scenes and alongside clients to connect them to evidence-based methods to achieve their goals. Aaron particularly enjoys gathering data, synthesizing information, and working with the Ethos team to meet clients’ needs.

Fast Facts:

  1. He was born and raised in Northeastern Ohio and is a proud fan of Cleveland’s major sports franchises and The Ohio State Buckeyes
  2. Is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Ohio
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“I cannot say enough great things about the strategic planning process with Ethos. The process was not only fun but truly engaging. Becky and David were able to take a multitude of ideas from more than 30 participatory team members and help consolidate them into a workable functional plan. I will definitely use Ethos again for strategic planning and other leadership consulting needs!”

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David Ray - Ethos Leadership Group

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David Ray

Owner

In 2017, David joined Ethos after leading and advising in the non-profit sector. An organizational troubleshooter and natural synergist, David leverages his analytical and relational skills to help clients take their business and team to their desired next level. With a passion to see others live and lead well, David enjoys connecting leaders to evidence-based practices to boost leadership capacity, build human capital, and improve organizational performance. David particularly enjoys working with clients through strategic planning, executive coaching, and team development.

Fast Facts:

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Becky joined Ethos in 2009 after leading the daily operations of five distinct work teams over a ten-year period. An analyst and solution-generator by nature, she works with clients to identify their needs and develops a plan of action to reach their desired results. Having worked in numerous disciplines in her career, Becky brings a broad range of knowledge and experience to our clients. Becky particularly enjoys working with clients on organizational audits, strategic planning, employee training and coaching, and governance.

Fast Facts:

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Dr. James A. Johnson - Ethos Leadership Group

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As our Founder, James encourages us to dream bigger dreams and mentors us to achieve them. James brings this same passion to our clients, skillfully blending inspiration with practical application in his work. James’ primary areas of expertise include leadership and fundraising.

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  1. Development Officer at Pheasants Forever.
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