How people in leadership positions handle tough stuff situations determines whether they are quintessential leaders or notPeople in leadership positions face “tough stuff” situations routinely. How they handle these kinds of situations gives a lot of insight into whether they are quintessential leaders or not.

The unfortunate reality is that many people who are in leadership positions are not actually leaders.

Generally, people are promoted to leadership positions because of two scenarios with the traditional reward path used by companies and organizations.

The first scenario features a person who excels in a single area or thing (management) who is promoted as a reward and given supervisory responsibilities for other people.

The second scenario offers promotion with supervisory responsibilities for absolute loyalty to, absolute agreement with, and the willingness to do anything requested (good or bad, right or wrong, legal or illegal) by the companies or organizations.

The inherent problem with this traditional reward path should be obvious. Leadership ability – which includes people skills – are not factored into the equation.

Therefore, a lot of people in leadership positions have no ability and no experience in handling “tough stuff” situations. Because of this, teams first, projects second, and companies and organizations finally implode from the inside out leaving nothing but scattered, shattered, and mangled wreckage in their wake.

It shouldn’t be this way. It doesn’t have to be this way. But until a fundamental change in thinking and behavior happens in corporate and organizational models, it will not only continue, but it will continue to get more and more prevasive.

There is a stark contrast between how unquintessential leaders handle – or, more accurately, don’t handle – “tough stuff” situations and how quintessential leaders handle them. 

Let’s spend a little time comparing and contrasting those differences.

When faced with “tough stuff” situations, unquintessential leaders – who are not wise or knowledgeable enough to know that they are a part of life and work and are to be expected – immediately respond to them in some or all of the following ineffective ways:

  • Hiding them
  • Denying them
  • Ignoring them
  • Avoiding them
  • Responding inappropriately to them
  • Minimizing them
  • Blaming others for them
  • Fueling them

Some of these responses are the product of cowardice and vanity (wanting to look good to other people, especially the people whom they report to), while others are simply the product of incompetence.

No matter what the source of these responses by unquintessential leaders, the reality is that all of these responses make the “tough stuff” situations worse because they escalate the severity of them until they blow up into an out-of-control and, ultimately, irrecoverable conflagration. 

Quintessential leaders, on the other hand, know that life and work are fraught with “tough stuff” situations and their responses are totally different (and effective).

Quintessential leaders leaders immediately respond to “tough stuff situations” by:

  • Responding appropriately to them
  • Owning them
  • Confronting them
  • Correcting them
  • Stopping them

Because quintessential leaders take this path, they are able to navigate through and resolve “tough stuff” situations successfully and, by taking immediate and appropriate action, in many cases, avoiding the same type of situations from resurfacing in the future (some “tough stuff” situations should never happen to begin with, but they occur when unquintessential leaders are at the helm and allow them to fester and grow unchecked).

The common denominator in most “tough stuff” situations is human beings, who are amazingly very unique and different from person to person, which makes building a successful and excellent team one of our greatest challenges.

Without people skills and leadership skills that are demonstrable, real, and superb, this challenge is impossible to meet.

And that is why so many people who have been promoted into leadership positions using the traditional reward system fail miserably at team-building and “tough stuff” situation resolution.

By now, you’ve probably thought of all the unquintessential leaders who’ve mangled “tough stuff” situations in your own experience.

But those of us who are striving to become quintessential leaders can’t look around and point the finger at other people and say, “Aha!”

Instead we must look squarely at ourselves and ask – and answer – which set of responses characterizes how we handle “tough stuff” situations.

Do we hide “tough stuff” situations? Do we deny them? Do we avoid them? Do we respond inappropriately to them? Do we minimize them? Do we blame others for them? Do we fuel them?

Or do we respond appropriately to “tough stuff” situations? Do we own them? Do we confront them? Do we correct them? Do we stop them?

How are we doing?



  1. Powerful post. I have always tried to do the right thing with each job I undertook to pursue. I remember, as an educational secretary, being told by one school principal I worker for (who received 3 times the salary I received) – run this school, I don’t care how you do it, but I do not want to be bothered with headaches. So, I was in total charge of the Junior High School for several years. I did the best job I could, even though it was not my job to be the principal. Don’t get we wrong, I am not trying to brag. This just shows that there are more Unquintessential Leaders, than Quintessential leaders in this world. I doubt that this will ever change. Many people simply do the least that is required of them to maintain employment.


    • Thank you for your comments, my friend. Unquintessential leaders do indeed abound. However, there are a few of us who are committed to becoming quintessential leaders. Not that any of us, including me, are there yet. We all stumble in many things. But when we stumble, we get up and set things right, as we are able, and get back on the path toward that goal.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s