Great Leaders Need Resilience. Here’s How to Develop It
The following article is courtesy of John Eades and his “Building the Best” weekly newsletter from January 14, 2022.
Do you remember how it felt the last time you or your team achieved something meaningful? Whether you received an award on stage or it showed up in the bank account, chances are, you felt pride and a natural high.
While those feelings are wonderful, have you ever stopped to think about the key ingredients that helped you get there? There is a good chance talent, timing, coaching, and teammates had a lot to do with it. However, without the skill of resilience, your ultimate success would never have happened.
Take Owen, a young entrepreneur, for example. When he first set out to solve the problem of reducing turnover in young professionals through software and coaching, he was flush with passion and excitement.
At first, everything looked up as he successfully raised money, hired his first five team members, and acquired an initial round of customers. However, quickly those early wins turned into significant losses. The software failed, customers got disgruntled, and the promised results weren’t coming to fruition.
So Owen did the opposite of what he should have done. He blamed his team members, complained about his customers, and eventually folded up shop. The result was unhappy investors, lost jobs, and a talented professional who believed he wasn’t worthy of success.
One of the main reasons these negative outcomes happened was because Owen and his team hadn’t developed the skill of resilience.
What is Resilience?
Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties and demonstrate toughness. By itself, resilience is dynamic because one can have more or less of it in different situations. Resilience enables people to continue learning and adapting to overcome challenging situations.
Resilience enables leaders and teams to learn and adapt to overcome challenging situations.
Those professionals lacking resilience get easily overwhelmed, flustered, and often have worse outcomes. While negative results alone should drive you to be more resilient, most people choose not to be out of bad habits and faulty thinking.
People can get better at being more resilient because it’s a skill. It is a way of thinking and behaving that’s developed gradually through experience and often unlearning what bad parents or bad bosses have taught us.
Resilience is a way of thinking and behaving that is developed gradually through experience and often unlearning what bad parents or bad bosses have taught us.
The Makeup of Resilient Leaders
Researchers have identified the leadership skills that build a team’s capacity to take risks and bounce back from setbacks. They found that leaders who encourage employees to learn on the job and listen when they voice their ideas for change build team resilience and effectiveness.
Beyond listening and encouraging team members, I have found that there tend to be four essential elements that allow leaders to demonstrate resilience.
- Emotional Intelligence
When leaders take ownership of challenges happening in their world (responsibility), have an internal belief in themselves (confidence), get their emotions to work for them and not against them (emotional intelligence), and can do something successfully or efficiently (competence), resilience comes out naturally.
If you see some of these elements in yourself, or you find yourself falling into the same pattern of thinking as Owen, here’s what you can do to develop the skill of resilience further.
1. Remind Yourself to Be Resilient Daily
Life is difficult, which means work is challenging. You can accept this or get aggravated, but you cannot change it. The mistake professionals make is that we believe work should be easy and that our professional and personal lives would be happier if it were.
The problem isn’t that work is difficult. It’s supposed to be. As I tell leaders in the Coaching for Excellence Workshop, “If coaching were easy, everyone would be doing it.” Suppose this wasn’t enough—the more important work you are doing, the more resistance you will encounter pursuing it. So work in whatever capacity you do it proposes a series of problems and dilemmas. How we respond to these events determines the direction of professional journeys.
The more important things are, the more resistance you encounter pursuing them.
Your job will be to remind yourself daily to be resilient. Find a mechanism like a rubber band on your wrist or a say to yourself when adversity hits, “The only way is through.”
If you lead a team, it’s your job to remind teammates that they can become more resilient, and you can help them do this by creating a supportive and problem-solving culture.
2. Take Maximum Responsibility
The culture we live and work in today has leaders who teach us to reject responsibility. To blame someone else instead of taking personal responsibility. While there are many things out of your control, the best leaders always take responsibility.
Responsibility is the state or fact of being accountable for something. I wish in the dictionary they would make the primary synonym of responsibility, leadership. A great way to think about this is leaders either created the problem, contributed to the problem, or tolerated the problem.
Leaders either created the problem, contributed to the problem, or tolerated the problem.
When you take maximum responsibility, you are decisive, solve problems, abstain from placing blame, and look at your actions to improve the situation. There is nothing easy about this, but you do it without thinking once you master it through your mental habits.
3. Take One Step Towards Improvement
When leaders are at their best, they are getting a little bit better every day. The aggregation of marginal gains (1% rule) was made famous by British cycling coach David Brailsford. To be more resilient, you have to take one step towards improving every day.
In her new book Smart Growth, Whitney Johnson said, “Grow or don’t grow. You choose.” The power that is in these words is unrelentin. Can you or your team take one step toward improvement? Is there one thing you can do today that will make the challenges you are up against better tomorrow?
It is ok to delay gratification, embrace reality, and release the illusion that you should have it all figured out in a day. Commit to taking one step at a time and advance forward.
Some enormous challenges and crises are going on in the world and in your workplace right now. What I want you to remember is no crisis is insurmountable. In contrast, this doesn’t mean the outcome you wish will happen on the timeline you desire. However, it certainly won’t happen if you give up and don’t choose to be resilient.
If you remind yourself to be resilient daily, take maximum responsibility and take one step towards improvement, you will be on your way to modeling what the best leaders do, demonstrating the skill of resilience.
Free Downloadable Coaching Cheatsheet There is nothing easy about coaching. So we put together a list of eight of the best coaching questions to help you. Download it for free here.
Coaching for Excellence Workshop Want to improve the performance of your team in 2022? Look no further than your coaching skills. Register for the next Coaching for Excellence Workshop.
John’s New Book John is finishing a brand new fable story about leadership and looking for volunteers to read or listen to the first four chapters and provide feedback. By doing so, you will be entered to win a free signed it’s when it’s released. If you are open to help, sign up here.
About the Author:
John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making virtual training easy and effective. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.