Leadership and The Art of the Struggle by Steven Snyder

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Leadership and The Art of the Struggle
is a terrific book by Steven Snyder, a former CEO and senior executive at Microsoft.  In addition to taking a deep dive on how we navigate struggle, Snyder shares his own struggle story — without which he would not have joined Microsoft in its infancy.  In his words, “traditional leadership narratives contemplate what and how, this struggle-centric narrative probes deeper, uncovering the why.” Because I always want to know the why behind a person's  dream, his approach resonated; insights were plentiful.  An especial shout-out goes to Snyder for including in his research the stories of women and men.

Below is a summary of the book in soundbites:

Leadership is a struggle by flawed human beings to make some important values real in the world as it is. — @steven_j_snyder

Fiction opens a new portal on leadership, deepening the understanding of leadership as a human endeavor. – @steven_j_snyder

When you compare your abilities to others or simply question your abilities, you are experiencing a fixed mindset. – @steven_j_snyder

Leadership is about being clear about one's own place in the order of things and honoring everybody else's place. – Joe Dowling v @steven_j_snyder

When you acknowledge your vulnerabilities, you retain the power. — @bill_george v @steven_j_snyder

Mindfulness is like installing a new, enhanced operating system for the brain:  OS Brain 2.0. — @steven_j_snyder

As activity decreases, order increases. As the mind settles down, it becomes more orderly, more able to comprehend and to handle difficult challenges. — @Kevin_Cashman v @steven_J_snyder

Connection is a two-way street. – @steven_j_snyder

You cannot be a leader without being a student of the human condition. – Joe Dowling v @steven_j_snyder

We have five types of blindspots:  experience, personality, values, strategic and conflict. — Steven Snyder

A personality blind spot is the ‘ghost behind the strength'.  — Marc Belton

A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single mind contemplates it, bearing with him the image of a cathedral. — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Good leaders learn to intuit the link between their current circumstances and future potentialities. – @steven_j_snyder


When in the midst of a struggle, emotions can overwhelm rationality.  It's a leader's job to make some semblance of sense out of chaos.  The first step is to understand what's causing the underlying tensions.  With a clear grasp of the four major tension points (tradition, aspiration, relationship and identity), a leader can determine the best way to navigate the struggle.

Past: Tensions of tradition arise when an organization confronts its past patterns, practices, beliefs.
Tensions of aspiration arise when a leader struggles to realize a new vision for the future.
Outward:  Tensions of relationships emerge to a certain extent from a climate of mistrust.
Inward:  Tensions of identity stem from an effort to express authentic and credible leadership capabilities.

Two strategies for navigating the tension map are:
Focus on the situation, and then think of a creative way to re-imagine the situation in a way that enables you to get through it.  Focus on you and your contributions to the tensions and how you might change.


Resolving tensions of identity are central to navigating through struggle. — @steven_j_snyder

What is your struggle story? — @steven_j_snyder

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