June 30, 2020


Resilient Leadership

Hello again fellow leaders. I am back with another heartening, leaderlike newsletter! Once again, I endeavor to share uplifting stories of leadership that may stir some motivation within you and anyone you care to share this with. 
Wherever you are in the world and whatever your position at work, I aspire to inspire by sharing my anecdotes and providing stories of triumph and leadership at its best. 

This month the topic is the importance of resilience, especially in these times – notably how to be a resilient leader and resilient learner. My sense is, we can all benefit from some resilience right now…

When you walk away from an interaction with a great leader or leave a virtual session you should feel inspired. Leaders cannot motivate, they simply create the conditions for motivation. Therefore, from my perspective one of the most important qualities of a leader is inspiration. For me, it’s the litmus test, sorting mediocre managers from amazing leaders.

The latest pandemic has left organizations, teams and businesses facing major challenges, temporary setbacks, and even some irreversible roadblocks. We all need to be resilient.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines ‘resilience’ in two ways.

  1. “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”
  2. “capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress.”

Both are applicable in today’s world!

With the current global climate testing most of us – do we give up? Do we allow ourselves to feel beaten and downtrodden? Many are feeling demotivated, depressed and like life is a struggle. What we can all benefit from RIGHT NOW is strong leadership.  Leaders who demonstrate and teach resilience to others.

When I ask a group to define the qualities of great leaders – from anecdotal evidence – resilience is rarely mentioned. We need to revisit resilience as a defining leadership quality. Our people, businesses and societies are like dry sponges, thirsty for resilient models of excellence.

As humans we require resiliency at a personal level too.  Some individuals recover easily, bouncing back to their original ‘size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress’. These individuals are excellent weather captains who do a great job steering the vessel on nice sunny days!

A true leader is not just the good weather captain. The leaders who demonstrate solidity, vulnerability, humanness and empathy, coupled with strong direction even at the most trying times, those are the true leaders!

Can we teach resilience? My sense is no. I wish it were that simple! What we can do as leaders is to embody the concept – so that our mentor side comes to the fore and we pass on examples of resilience to our teams and their teams. It’s how we debrief situations, how we coach our leaders and teams to be resilient that matters most.

Maya Angelou the wonderful poet laureate said the following about resilience: 

You may not control all the events that happen to you, you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

How do you view your personal failures? Do they reduce you to a stressed shadow of yourself, licking your wounds in a corner? Or do you consider them as an aggrandized, golden opportunity to learn? Cultivate your best self and learn from your failures and flops!  Examine how and why they occurred and what you could change next time!  Leverage the challenging times and events as opportunities to advance and expand your horizons. This is true resilience!

My personal experiences have taught me the hard way, especially in the gym and on the yoga mat – no pain, no gain!

Now – how to pass on resilience skills? The key is resilient leadership.  Remember you are being observed, scrutinized, and LEADING the way forward.

Leadership is not a solitary, unique, one-time act, it is a process which evolves daily. You evolve with your team, your people, your talent.

Watch this video as a reminder of the immensely important work of one of the most resilient men and leaders we have known in our lifetime: The Great Nelson Mandela. Your behavior, in the office and equally online sends out signals of resilience.

The resilient leader debriefs, learns and moves forwards – no place for blame or fault-finding. You may think as a leader that simply walking across a room with a determined and pensive look on your face is not an act of leadership; think again! When you hear great, new, or bad news, what you say and how you react is an impactful and influential act of leadership. Demonstrate and embody resilience when you coach your teams.

In life, both mental and physical resilience are necessary. Physically bouncing back after illness or breaks is proof that we take care of our bodies. Mental resilience is what I refer to as ‘learning’ resilience. Usually we have and need combination of both – the mind body connection is at play constantly.

We may skin our knees from time to time – that’s life! It’s resilient learning that is crucial. Remember, infants learn to walk by first learning to fall. They fall hundred and thousands of times before they learn to master the skill of walking- even falling some 17 times/hour. Do they give up? No!

If you want to ensure your people are resilient, engage in conversation about your own resilience and how it has grown from trials and tribulations.

Be open, honest, congruent and communicate effectively. Be open to input from your surroundings, your team, friends and family.

Get to know your people and build deep, meaningful relationships.  Listen to what hardships your people are facing and empower them with your advice? Get to know what successes and motivators are important to them?

Richard Branson is another experienced leader and advocate of resilience: Waking up stressed and miserable is not a good way to live. You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over. Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.”

Thanks for reading another Leaderlike You! newsletter. Like, comment and subscribe to the mailing list to stay in touch. I look forward to hearing your comments on resilience and how you can foster this essential leadership skill.

Stay at peace with yourself, at peace with others and be leaderlike.
Look forward to connecting next month,