What it takes to build resilient leaders
If we pick up life stories of well-known leaders, we will be surprised that most of them have been written off in times of crisis in their lives. That is because one of the most important lessons in leadership is that of resilience. As every world-class athlete knows, the contender who wins today is likely to lose tomorrow and vice versa a leader needs to embrace his failures and not give up. The crucial issue is how resilient you are—how ready you are to bounce back from defeat with renewed energy and resolve. Tested by adversity, either personal or professional, a leader is prepared to withstand future challenges with authenticity, grace, humility, strength and endurance. And in times of triumph, a leader is wise enough to avoid excessive celebration, which may lead to a state of euphoria and the illusions that go with it.
A resilient leader is the one who can balance his/her emotions and communicating optimism even when things may not be as positive in order to keep up the positivity of his followers or teammates. When the leader is resilient, so is the organization and it is this balance of character that distinguishes those who exercise true leadership from those who merely exercise authority.
The dramatic shift in our consciousness about who is an effective leader of today starts with the changes taking place in the world. We are living in an era of globalization and rapid technological change that is creating volatility, uncertainty, chaos and ambiguity and its impact is compounded by the rapidly changing job market and the new 24x7 communications world. This creates stress for executives and the institutions they lead. This volatile environment creates more emotional ups and downs and can cause us to lose confidence and a reserve of mental and physical energy is required to be resilient.
Organizations and employees and people have realized that we need resilient organizations with flexible, resourceful leaders to create the most productive work culture for people. Most organizations make a plan and figure that will get them where they need to go. But much of the time, things don’t go according to plan and people lose heart and focus. We need resilient leaders who can help bring back that confidence in them, to make them believe that things will be ok, that tomorrow or next week or next year will be better.
Broadly, resilient leadership requires two critical capabilities. First, the ability to personally respond effectively to challenging and adverse situations by transforming them into catalysts for improved performance. Second, the capacity to influence others and the organization towards helpful and positive outcomes during trying times. Whether one is an entrepreneur, manager, CEO or a trainee, a few coping skills can help in developing resilience in us:
Combining facts with a sureness of success: The way you think about things is critical to responding effectively to adversity. Resilient leaders very quickly assess the reality of any situation and combine this with knowing they have the capability and resources to effectively respond. Through honest and direct communication, resilient leaders encourage others to confront their brutal facts and work collaboratively to generate proactive solutions
Fostering internal or self-control: The degree to which leaders feel they have personal control over their thoughts, feelings and actions are directly related to their level of resilience. People who don’t give up and thrive when “the chips are down” tend to invest their energy into what they can control (their own thoughts, feelings and behaviors) and influence (the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of their team). Additionally, people with an internal locus of control tend to assume greater personal responsibility for outcomes. Internally-locussed individuals typically view setbacks as temporary and changeable and use language that communicates this to others.
Developing the habit of improvising: Encountering adverse circumstances at work is usually unexpected. Resilient individuals have the ability to improvise a solution when one is not obvious and are innovative in putting familiar resources to unfamiliar uses or imagining possibilities and solutions where others become confounded or indecisive and empower their team and the organization to do the same
Search for deeper meaning: Instead of becoming bogged down in “why me?”Or “why us?” a resilient leader always seem to have the knack of quickly seeing how the challenge will create an improved future. They can find a meaningful “why” and communicate this with passion to others and not allow themselves or others to waste energy on what cannot be changed
Nurture strong positive relationships: Individuals who are able to connect with others that they trust are more resilient that those who do not have this social resource. Being able to communicate openly and honestly and receive support from trusted colleagues is a critical factor for resilient leadership
Investing time in cultivating your strengths: Knowing your strengths and those of your team will provide you with a solid foundation when the need for resilience arises. Adversity can sometimes see you go down a path of unrealistic thinking and during such times, it is helpful to reflect on your own, your team’s and your organization’s strengths. Effectively employing these strengths will assist with successfully guiding you through the challenging time
Managing stress: Effectively managing your stress before it gets out of control is the key to a resilient response. Whether it is through mindfulness, breathing strategies, exercise, nutrition or more helpful thinking patterns, getting to calm is critical to resilient leadership
My experience as the Chief Mentor of Achievers Zone which conducts corporate trainings throughout the country has proven that we can choose to progress, or through fear or uncertainty become stuck and both these attitudes are latent in each of us. Through training and motivation, we can develop the positive trait so that it takes over the more negative one and build our resilience to face the pressures and though each leader is different, flourishing in the face of adversity is the true test of leadership. Whether it is a critical workplace event, dealing with the constant and rapid pace of change, or simply responding to the day-to-day challenging situations that leaders encounter, effective training can help each individual to cultivate his own and others' resilience and steer the organization towards success.