There has been a lot of talk, especially in recent times, about how leaders are managing change and becoming change agents, but very little attention has been paid to the need for resilience.
In a world and workplace that is in a constant state of flux, our leaders are expected to be the one group in the organisation that is exempt from normal human frustrations and disappointments that change can bring.
- Have we equipped them to do this?
- Have we encouraged their natural resilience or helped to build more?
Resilience—what does it mean?
We know we’re supposed to be resilient, but what does it mean?
The internet dictionary defines resilience as “the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity” and “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.”
Resilience is actually a survival skill. It is what keeps us going in the face of adversity, and it’s what helps us get back on our feet after we’ve taken a knock of some kind. There is physical resilience which comes from health and fitness, and there’s mental resilience which is based on psychological health and your attitude towards life.
Resilient leaders bounce forwards, not backwards.
In an article in Educational Leadership, Ellie Allison says, “Resilience is often described as a personal quality that predisposes individuals to bounce back in the face of loss.
Resilient leaders, however, do more than bounce back—they bounce forward. With speed and elegance, resilient leaders take action that responds to new and ever-changing realities, even as they maintain the essential operations of the organisations they lead.”
That is a very profound sentence and it really helps define the difference between a good leader and a great one. Great leaders are pro-active, rather than merely responsive. Like elastic, they spring back into shape and hold things together again.
Is it possible to build resilience?
While some of your leaders will have been born with a natural resilience, it is possible to help the others build up their resilience levels. The key is to begin working on their mindset and attitude – shifting them from the ‘glass half empty’ view to the ‘glass half full.”
How can you build your own leadership resilience or help develop it in your team leaders? These tips will help.
- Look after yourself – and be seen to do it.
Stress and worry can gradually erode even the best health if you don’t manage it carefully. It’s important that you take the time to look after yourself. Breathe. Rest. Eat well. Even defer a non-crucial deadline sometimes! And be seen to do it! Remember – You are a role model. Your team will model their behaviour and response to your actions. Show them how important it is to keep their own needs in mind.
- Consciously look for the positives.
It’s so easy to see what’s going wrong and magnify the impact of it on our minds. The negatives seem to be much more clearly seen than the positives. This is where you need to pull yourself up and reframe your thoughts.
Instead of focusing on what’s going wrong, look for what’s going right. Look for the little benefits and surprise advantages that are hiding in the situation. They are there but you will need to go looking for them. And again, be seen to do it. Share what you find. Model the positive mindset for your team.
- Look after your relationships.
Relationships are more important during tough times. You need the strength that you can draw from them. But, often the first things tossed onto the sacrificial altar are your relationships. Your bad mood, lack of time, lack of patience – well let’s just say you’re probably not on your best behaviour at these times and it can cost you. Even your best friend won’t tolerate your bad mood forever.
- Pay attention to the way you are interacting with people and be the person you want to be.
- Take your time to communicate and to listen.
- Take your time to support others because they need you as much as you need them.
- Nurture the important relationships -friends, family, mentors, and team members. You are each other’s source of strength.
- Recognise that you can’t control everything.
Difficult as it may be, resilient leaders have learned not to beat themselves up over things they can’t influence or change. That’s one of the best lessons you can learn as a leader and once again, it’s a very important attitude to model for your team. Sometimes you just have to let things go and turn your attention to the things you can do something about. Throw out the concept of blame. It doesn’t belong here.
This might be the last point, but in many ways, it’s the most important. We know that laughter can induce a sense of wellbeing, calm your mind, help put things into perspective and, above all, boost your creativity. In other words, it can improve your resilience, too. Try to keep some humour in your workplace even if it means calling a short halt to work so you and your team can share a coffee and your funny stories together sometimes. You will see a productivity boost as soon as you return to work, and it’s not just due to the coffee!
Try some of these tips to improve your resilience. They will do good things for your health and help you bounce back from the challenges life throws at you.
If this is an area in which you struggle, you might like to consider our Executive Coaching and Mentoring. Programs are very personalised and will help you learn to manage yourself and develop the skills and attitudes you need to support you as a leader. Contact us today and let’s chat about how we can help you become a better leader.