Resilience is the ability to maintain flexibility and focus when dealing with massive change. Leaders who possess this skill can differentiate themselves and lead their teams more effectively.
Today’s post is by thougthtLEADERS principal Maureen Metcalf.
In times of uncertainty, resilience is one of the most important skills for us to have. I define it as “the ability to remain flexible and focused when facing change.” As leaders, we are facing a higher level of volatility across the business environment than we previously faced. In the U.S., we are still dealing with a major political change. This transition exposed division that was not previously evident on the surface in families, offices and communities. Such division can be healthy if addressed with a spirit of curiosity and grace. Yet, how can that happen when we view our previously trusted colleagues and even family members as “the other,” or worse?
While the political environment is the most obvious example right now, we are also seeing unprecedented volatility in financial markets and uncertainty in many sectors such as healthcare. Some of this is caused by politics, some by technology, and some caused by the fact that we live in a world that is much more interconnected than it used to be. We are dealing with situations we’ve never seen before. There is no return to the prior level of control so as leaders, we need to learn to be more agile.
Take Bill, a university director, responsible for physical and technology security. He came into work on a normal Monday morning, got his coffee, and started to plan his week. At 9:10 his world was interrupted. A young student drove off the road and onto a sidewalk trying to hit other students. The student emerged from his car and began attacking others. It was the job of the director, campus security, and many others to move very quickly in this situation. For Bill, resilience was critical in this moment and in the moments following the event. He needed to respond with his full attention, as people’s lives and their well-being were at great risk.
Today’s leaders must update their leadership thinking and behavior to keep pace with the challenges they face. In this sense, leadership is always self-renewing, and I believe resilience is the foundation of it, because, as we face accelerating change, we also face an increasing occurrence of people who respond to these changes with different perspectives. If we can integrate these differing perspectives in every area of our lives – work, politics, in our communities and at home – to create more comprehensive and durable solutions, we are all served by the process. If, however, we discount others because they have perspectives we disagree with, or, even worse, see them as “wrong,” we lose the value of learning and risk the relationships required to thrive in times of challenge.
Back to our example, if Bill had only considered one facet of security, his team would have been ill-equipped to deal with a complex attack.
So, as a leader, how can you build resilience to navigate the challenges you face in work and life?
Using innovative leadership as the foundation for this discussion, we can parse resilience into four categories: