Rise and fall. My story of adversity and teamwork.

By, Joe Clementi

It was just about a year ago, that I was near the top of my game. Leading a large group of professionals from different states across multiple platforms.  The role came with an important title and its fair share of pressure and obligations.  The role was perfectly suited for my talents, passion and skill sets and was my dream job.

To assume that I was fortunate was an understatement.  Who would not want to have a big corporate title for a company they love working for in a role that seemed like the perfect fit?  I was blessed to have an amazing group of leaders who helped carry the team over the goal line regularly. We were fortunate to have outstanding teammates handling the daily tasks. Serving our clients at the highest levels and creating the revenue we were all so dependent upon. 

My peers, extremely intelligent, passionate, and driven to succeed at the highest levels.  These peers were great mentors that challenged conventional ideas and collaborated at a level I have never experienced before.  Simply said, this group was the best collection of leadership level talent.

The ride was very arduous yet at the same time extremely rewarding.  It was like driving a sportscar along a course that changed every few miles.  One had to be decisive and strategical in every move to support and adapt to the changing terrain.  Then it all came crashing down.

I was unexpectedly removed from my position and redirected to a different role. Imagine my surprise when I learned I was being demoted.  I was going to report to a peer who had until then, had a different role in the operations division.  What a blow to my ego and my mental state of being.  I had successfully climbed the ladder and now I was extemporaneously being pushed back down.

There was a genuine disconnect between my success as a leader and this sense of failure. I am sure my disappointment displayed outwardly no matter how hard I tried to suppress the feelings.  I realized that I had two choices, take on this new challenge with vigor or, allow bitterness and unhappiness dictate my future. I decided I was going to dive into the deep end. I would throw all my energy and passion for learning and leadership at this next challenge. 

Truth be told, I had a job and a great opportunity to impact an area that would benefit the company.  There was an entirely new group to lead, coach and inspire. While it was not going to be easy…I was all-in committed. The journey down this road was challenging as I would have to prove my worth to a group of teammates that did not necessarily want my leadership. It starts with building a foundation of leaders and experts. They are the leading edge that inspires change and cohesiveness.     

How do you win over a team that knows more about the daily operations than you do? Here is how I made my journey. 

My 5 strategies that lead me through this journey:

  1. Champion a change.  Instead of being the expert, we were determined to grow and learn together.  We would champion each other as the winding road became difficult to navigate.
  2. Grind.  Nothing deserved can be accomplished without the grind. Long hours, late nights, weekends, and lots of coaching.
  3. Study.  Be willing to absorb, read, and learn as much about the topic as possible. There is an old axiom, “the leader is a student first”.
  4. Desire.  You must have a genuine need to create success and a dislike for stagnation.  Create clarity of your internal desire and then commit.
  5. Must be committed, not just interested.  I recall a speech that Herm Edwards gave.  He said, and I will paraphrase…”to succeed you cannot be interested, you must be committed”. I was absolutely committed regardless of the results.

This would not be a success story if I did not acknowledge a few things.  The peer who ended up my boss, turned out to be one of the best leaders that I have ever worked for!  He is ultra-competitive, compassionate, extremely driven and his ability to communicate is first rate.  He has been more of a partner pushing the right buttons than a boss. He is a coach finding creative ways to drive me to perform better.  In fact, I continue to develop my leadership because of his leadership style. 

My peers who are now my superiors, continue to support me at the highest level and they have become some of my biggest cheerleaders! I consider myself fortunate to have these leaders in my corner.  They continue to inspire and motivate me to give more of myself.

We built a team of subject matter experts as leaders that can balance strategic thinking with genuine hard work. My team is a collection of the misfits that fit perfectly!  They are some of the hardest working leaders in the company and continuously challenge themselves to lead at a higher level. We spend many hours learning critical leadership philosophies and innovative ways to coach through adversity.  They have learned to enjoy my idiosyncrasies’ and unique approaches to performance coaching.  I am in awe of their capacity to adapt, adjust, and overcome.

This transformation happened to humble my spirit, challenge my determination, and test my resolve.  While we have not yet arrived, we have experienced tremendous growth.  The adjustment we collectively made has helped our teams and improved our business. 

“Leadership requires belief in the mission and unyielding perseverance to achieve victory.” – Jocko Willink

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