If there is one certainty, it’s that we live in uncertain times.
Markets ebb and flow, work priorities shift, staff come and go, and you could be transferred or reassigned. Leaders today are bombarded with roadblocks, setbacks, letdowns, rejections, and failed attempts at success. The question then is not how can we avoid stress and difficult situations, but how do we face it, overcome it and recover?
Resilience is a business and organizational issue that appears to be in high demand, if sustainability or growth is the vision. However, more often we think of resilience from a personal perspective. We picture an individual who has had a mental or physical setback or has personally gone through a traumatic experience. We don’t usually think of a leader who went through an incredibly tough year in the workplace and grew to be a better leader because of the experience. Although personal resilience is important for a leader, it is also a key element of effective leadership.
Development of resilience within an organization comes by leading others through difficult times. It is during such challenges staff teams rely on the strength and composure of their leader to keep them focused on goals at hand. Leadership, in times of trouble, shouldn’t reflect on the negativity of the situation surrounding the team but should seek out the necessary support required to overcome staff concerns by listening and being actively supportive.
A great leader addresses the current resilience level of the organization or the people on their team. They know the signs, when a team member has a low resilience battery and know the environment needed for that person to charge their battery. Consider opening meetings with discussion on the current battery level among your team or the one you are leading. This can help you understand what puts them under perceived stress, when it is time to let off the gas a bit or when you can push a little harder. This happens in high-performance sports all the time. You may want to push an athlete harder but if they are close to breaking, you can wind up in a heap of trouble. Great coaches know each athlete individually and when a break is needed. They also know what kind of break each member needs, and foster the skill that can charge the battery.
People who can’t handle a fast pace or uncertainty will not perform at their best. We know stress lowers productivity and increases health problems so when people in leadership roles are angry, reactive, or anxious, it will set the tone for how other team members interact. It is important to practise what they preach. You most likely are a “booster” which means when your team members are feeling depleted they are going to feed off your energy. This means you have to be the most conscious of this. You, as a leader, need to look after your resilience and know what keeps your battery topped up.
A resilient leader is a person who sees failure as a temporary setback, a learning opportunity, who sees “no” as one step closer to “yes.” Resilient leaders can maintain a positive outlook, a growth mindset and also see periods of discourse or turbulence as opportunities to shape change.
Many studies have indicated the importance of resilience as both an individual and leadership trait. Within organizations resilient leaders are perceived more positively. Getting through difficult times shows where you’ve been and, more importantly, what you are capable of. Seeing opportunity in every struggle shows one’s ability to work through hard times, and indicates there is a lesson to be learned from our failures.
Key enabling behaviours help leaders demonstrate their resilience to others and serve as a model for those around them. Being able to communicate effectively helps others understand changes, new expectations and new directions. Being open to feedback – and asking for feedback willingly – shows a desire to continuously improve. Being able to build positive and trusting relationships, taking risk, being decisive, championing change and developing others are all characteristics of resilient leaders. Choosing to improve even a few of these competencies will help develop your leadership abilities and resilience, and you will be viewed by others as more resilient.