Leadership Lessons from Bear Grylls

His name may not be familiar to you, but it is to the approximately 1.2 billion people who have watched his TV show “Man Vs Wild.”  He’s a best-selling author, a former member of British Special Forces and an avid adventurer.  He spoke to the Global Leadership Summit 2019 from the mountains in Switzerland.

Do you know what a forging influence is?  According to Bear Grylls, it’s something that, when encountered, has the potential to change you.  During his presentation, he offered four forging influences, and then, at the end, tossed in a fifth.  Here they are:

  1. Failure.  No one likes to fail.  Everyone should plan to fail.  How?  By seeing failure as a doorway to important discoveries you cannot make about yourself and your pathways if you are always successful.  Leaders know that failure provides essential markers that everyone needs to pass through in order to become ever more integrated.  Leaders do not fear personal failure and they help those they lead to mine failures for their lessons.
  2. Fear.  Everyone faces fear and each person has a choice about how they face it.  Grylls noted that fear is a constant journeyman…always around.  Fear can be faced by walking toward it, full of courage.  Fear can be faced by sitting right in the middle of it, listening to the inner voices and finding those that aid in getting up and moving on.  The cracks fear reveals are where light shines through.  Leaders need to remember that and so let the light shine through their cracks, all the while refusing to allow fear to dictate.
  3. Fire.  This is the name Grylls gave to that “fire-in-the-belly” that leaders need, now and again.  It’s not necessary nor proper for this kind of fire to characterize every leadership action.  Grylls advises to save it for the big items.  And what’s in this fire?  The drive to go a little further, to give that extra that launches a person or a project onward.  The persistence needed to give more when others give up.  The resilience to endure setbacks, backstabbing, negativity, financial woes and personal attacks.  That’s what’s in “fire.”
  4. Faith.  While Grylls is a Christian and Christian faith was a critical part of his message about forging influencers, he also talked about the need for a faith in the general sense.  As one who has climbed Mt. Everest, he know that everyone will face an “Everest” or two, or six in their lives.  A “life-Everest” is an experience that awakens the voice of doubt.  Faith silences that voice.  Faith provides a secret strength from which leaders can draw a sense of security, an anchor that will sustain them through doubt.

At this point Grylls finished his prepared remarks about Forging Influencers, the 4 “Fs” and then, thoughtfully and earnestly added a fifth.  It doesn’t being with “F” but Grylls thought it important for all leaders.  So do I, especially today in an American landscape where this is in short supply:  be grateful and kind.  Gratitude and kindness are forging influencers…on the leader and on followers.  People will follow the grateful and kind leader.  And leaders who are grateful and kind to others live out the Gospel in everything they do.  They know themselves as entrusted with the care of others, no matter the other work that is theirs to do.  According to Grylls (and to Jesus!), this makes all the difference.

As this Advent season unfolds, may the disciplines of gratitude and kindness characterize your leadership.  May you know, deep within, how they make failure and fear fade.  May you know them as constitutive of Christian faith. May you find ways to be grateful and kind, each day.

Looking for some encouragement or assistance with forging influencers in your life?  Contact us.  We can offer you coaching, mentoring, thought-partnering, prayer and resources.



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