Leadership and Resilience

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” Carl Justav Jung

We all know of resilient leaders, those who have risen from the ashes like a phoenix and have managed not only to bounce back from adversity but to bounce forward. No one can avoid trouble and potential pit falls are all around us. Volatile times bring disruption and set backs for even the most successful among us. Some stumbles will be due to circumstances outside your control such as covid-19, weather, geopolitical shocks or wider economic changes, but while you may not be able to control the situation at large you can control your reaction to it.

The American Psychological society describes resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. It is one of the most essential capabilities for bouncing back from leadership setbacks in today’s business world. Resilience is not a trait that people have or do not have, it is a set of behaviours, thoughts and actions that can be learned and adopted by anyone. Remaining resilient in the face of nagging doubt and harsh realities is hard, particularly in today’s business climate of rapid, fast paced, disruptive change. What such a climate requires is emotionally intelligent leaders who are able to absorb change while at the same time helping others to move forward and achieve success.

During a crisis resilience comes to the fore as businesses face into restructuring, mergers, job insecurity, re-organisations and downsizing. The majority of businesses have been impacted in some way by the current recession, with very few emerging unscathed. They have had to find a way to become more flexible and adapt to rapidly changing circumstances.

Resilience is the ability to recover from stumbles or outright mistakes, but flexibility is not enough. To be truly resilient you need to:

1. Know your own strengths and weaknesses. It is also important to know the strengths and weaknesses of those around you. Your views and beliefs on the situation can have a lasting impact for yourself and your team. Once you are honest with yourself you can make better choices for the future.
2. Avoid seeing problems as insurmountable and remain optimistic. Resilient leaders are optimistic not naive. They see and acknowledge the bad but they also find a way to see the good. Having a contingency plan for when things go pear shaped helps you to remain more optimistic as you are prepared if the worst should happen.
3. Accept change as inevitable and adapt accordingly. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed allows you to focus on circumstances that you can alter. By acknowledging and accepting change leaders can step back, observe, and respond with composure and purpose.
4. Develop your awareness and understand the context of the challenges you face, knowing what resources you will need to build and sustain the required solutions. Mindfulness will allow you to pay attention to and focus on what is happening now in the present moment. Actively engaging with what is happening right now will allow you to view the moment from a more strategic standpoint. Developing a more aware and considered approach allows leaders to respond to situations rather than react to them.
5. Understand all actions you take . The decisions you make will have a personal impact on those working with and around you. There is a strong link between emotionally intelligent leadership and employee engagement, client satisfaction and the bottom line. Go the extra mile to re-inspire and re-engage your team in a meaningful vision. Companies that communicate clearly with and empower staff, allowing them to take decisions to solve problems, will prosper in the long run.
6. Maintain your physical, mental and emotional well being. This will give you the strength and balance to deal with challenging situations and is the foundation of resilience. Practice stress management and relaxation techniques.

Resilience enables leaders to overcome disappointment and move themselves and their organisations forward in times of immense uncertainty and stress. Although they may occasionally falter, potential trouble lurks around every corner and what matters is not the source of the trouble but how we deal with it. Resilience is an exercise in choice and we all have the choice whether to be trapped and mired in the current bad situation, or to learn from it and rebound. Resilient leaders and companies take action and learn from their mistakes, they embrace challenges rather than being frightened or intimidated by them and ultimately they flourish.

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