Resilience is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”. In terms of leadership, resiliency could be thought of as the ability to bounce back from failures, crises, setbacks, or any unexpected change and to have the ability to face uncertainty with confidence and resolve. A resilient leader maintains a positive attitude and a strong sense of opportunity during periods of turbulence. When faced with challenges or ambiguity, a resilient leader finds ways to move forward and avoids getting stuck. Resiliency is an optimal combination of toughness and flexibility seasoned with a strong dose of positive attitude. Resiliency is a key trait of an effective leader.
It is resiliency that lets a quarterback throw a pass with confidence after having the previous pass intercepted. It is resiliency that lets a race car driver start the next race after suffering a bad crash. It is resiliency that brings a married couple back into relationship after a nasty argument. It is resiliency that lets a politician run for office after being badly defeated in a previous election. It is resiliency that allows an entrepreneur to start a new business after a previous bankruptcy. Everyone faces both setbacks and uncertainty in life. Resiliency is what keeps us moving forward.
Why is it important for a leader to be resilient?
- The leader knows that in times of uncertainty or struggle a negative culture saps energy and a positive or resilient culture provides energy.
- The leader sets the tone for the organization. The culture of the organization reflects the character of the leader.
- The leader’s actions serve as a model for those who follow her. Followers respect a good leader and seek to follow in her footsteps.
- The leader recognizes that failure, setbacks, or struggles are opportunities for learning and growth. These opportunities accelerate the growth of his people.
- The leader sees challenges for the organization as an opportunity to build cohesiveness of the team.
- The leader is aware that the stress of adverse situations can take a toll and be debilitating. She seeks to provide strength and support both for herself and those on her team.
What demonstrated traits establish that a leader is resilient?
- Realistic optimism
- Open-mindedness and broad thinking
- Embracing and seeking change
- Accepting risks and facing fear
- Self-awareness and confidence in themselves and their team
- Growth-mindedness and refusal to be constrained by setbacks or uncertainties
How do these leaders prove their resiliency?
- They are ready to make decisions in the face of uncertainty.
- They are flexible and adaptable, which means they are able to regroup and change course when necessary.
- They powerfully communicate their confidence, optimism, and belief in the team.
- They don’t back down from challenges.
Resiliency does not function independently. It must be balanced by wisdom, vision, strategic thinking, emotional intelligence, and strong relationships. Bouncing back from a poor decision only to continually make a stream of poor decisions is not resiliency, but rather foolishness. But a fully capable leader should not be defeated by one poor decision or by adverse and unforeseen circumstances. This is where resiliency allows the leader to shrug off the occasional negative outcome or uncertainty and continue moving forward.
Ken is a business strategy consultant and leadership coach. His passion is helping companies and people grow and succeed. With an engineering degree and an MBA, he spent more than 20 years working in M&A and business development in the corporate world before founding New Horizon Partners, Inc. in 2002. His consulting practice works with a wide variety of industrial companies, helping them make good decisions about where and how to compete and building their leadership capabilities. To read other articles by Ken on business strategy and leadership, visit the New Horizon Partners website.
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