Making the Most of this Crucible Moment

Posted May 7, 2020

May 07, 2020 at 9:00 AM
Those of you who have gone though our Community Leadership Program (CLP) know what I am talking about when I say _crucible moment. Every year, at the CLP retreat, class members share with each other some of the hardest moments in their lives and how it shaped them as people and as leaders. And, every year, it is one of the most impactful and treasured parts of CLP.

In preparation for the exercise, we have the class read Harvard Business Review_s 2002 article on _Crucibles of Leadership by Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas. The authors define crucibles as transformative experiences through which an individual comes to a new or altered sense of identity_ and the article summarizes research they’ve conducted that have led them to the conclusion that one of the most reliable indicators and predictors of true leadership is an individual’s ability to find meaning in negative events and to learn from even the most trying circumstances. This article is also timely in that it appears we are all collectively in one big crucible moment!

So, Bennis and Thomas, what do we need to do? The article has many inspiring examples but I’ll skip right to the end where the authors summarize the four essential skills they believe great leaders possess that help them navigate difficult situations:

1) Ability to engage others in shared meaning how can you mobilize your team around a shared focus or goal?
2) Distinctive and compelling voice what words and messaging are you using to inspire your audience and be heard amongst all the noise?
3) Strong sense of integrity and values how do you make sure to align what you are saying with what you are doing and relying on your core values more than ever?
4) Adaptive capacity how do we make sense of all that is going on to put a situation in perspective and how do we maintain forward-looking hope?

We can apply these four skills to successfully lead our teams through the COVID-19 pandemic, but the second half of this crucible journey is possibly even harder_-making sense of the experience we just went through and allowing it to alter our sense of identity (hopefully for the better). The dictionary defines crucibles as vessels that medieval alchemists used in their attempts to turn base metals into gold. In processing how this period will make us stronger leaders, let_s give ourselves the time and the space and the permission to make that gold. Let’s not let the COVID-19 pandemic, as painful as it is, go to waste.

Lastly, strong community leadership is needed now more than ever. If you are inspired to act and make a difference in our community, please use one of the resources below to get involved. Volunteers are needed across the corridor to assist vital programs and support the most vulnerable in our communities.


The United Way of Johnson and Washington Counties has set up a volunteer portal at


Visit for resources from how to support the community to considerations for safely reopening your business.