Resilient Leadership

Resilient Leadership: Emergence from disruption

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In a nutshell:

  • We are disrupted.
  • We need resilience to cope with the disruption in our lives.
  • Leaders use resilience to manage adverse situations. 
  • Resilience is the heart of effective leadership.
  • Resilient leaders use different aspects like clarity, finding the recovery, personal values, personal efficacy, and wellbeing. 

We are Disrupted

We live in an era of disruption constantly fearing change and this fear elevates when the change is not in our control. It is not something that we as humans plan to do or avoid but it comes naturally, involuntarily, due to our fear of uncertainty. This fear is not something new. It dates back to our ancestors, who in their times did not move outside their area in search of food even if the resource was depleted, even if it meant slow, certain death. They preferred constancy because they thought that change would bring a lack of safety. Even now, when COVID has wreaked havoc upon the world, not only us on an individual level, but entire industries have been adversely shaken too. 

Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, explains why humans operate in this way. In one of her interviews, she says, “We experience less stress and anxiety when life is predictable because we know what to expect. We feel agitated and apprehensive when life isn’t predictable and we don’t know what’s around the corner.”

But the actual truth is that even though our lives are disturbed, life goes on. A lotus flower, for example, blooms from dirty waters in the deepest recesses of our living world. Petal by petal, resilient, gorgeous, and full, they rise to the surface. It’s not an easy rise, riding to the top. Underneath the murkiness, we are born of nutrients, a seemingly improbable place for tenderness and beauty to arise.

The universe speaks, our ecology speaks. Our inner world, the human situation, is reflected in nature and our biosphere. During the most difficult of times, we strive to adapt to a hostile environment of muddy waters. To common assumption, it might seem easy but getting out of that puddle is a herculean task that requires grit and resilience.

So now the question is, how can you remain nimble and flexible enough at scale to deal with unforeseeable challenges and changes? That’s not something you can purchase off the shelf or order online. It’s a problem that goes beyond technology. People must be encouraged to think outside the box and especially leaders. But where do they begin and how do they enlist their help in effecting change?

What is Resilience? 

Resilience is defined as the ability to work through, survive and bounce back from a challenging situation as well as the ability to deal with adversity. But it is not like a trampoline, that if you fall, you bounce back. It is more like finding the correct path and succeeding in that path. So, investigating resilience allows us to recognise that it is a trait that is distinctly particular and unique. Building up your good emotions, being aware, and appreciating your personal bank of positivity are all part of this process.

Who are Resilient Leaders? 

Today’s leaders may be caught in the middle of a tsunami! The tsunami slams into the shore, destroying, altering, and disrupting everything in its path. The crucial term in this face of constant change is survival. What does it mean to “ride the waves”? It entails riding out any major disruptions, such as global terrorism, pandemics, and economic downturns, as well as recognising and preparing for megatrends like digitization, climate change, and social transformation. 

A resilient leader has the ability to respond to unforeseen situations that are critical to their survival. They not only respond to such situations but also make sure that they sustain their energy level and bounce out of the disruption. The most important element of resilient leadership is that these leaders come out of adversity without engaging in dysfunctional behaviour and making sure that others are not hampered in the process. 

When faced with a chronic crisis or adversity, resilient leaders display the ability to heal, learn, and develop. We all need to grasp the components of resilience and figure out which ones work best for us. Resilience, according to author Warren Bennis, lies at the heart of effective leadership. “I believe that adaptive ability, or resilience, is the single most crucial attribute in a leader, or anybody else for that matter, who wishes to live a healthy and fulfilling life.”

Skills of Resilient Leaders 

Hansen of the Resilience Institute published a report in 2018 based on 21,239 responses that showed how resilience assessment diagnostic tools were used around the world in five languages, with the results highlighting that humans are a complex mix of physical, emotional, and cognitive characteristics that require integrated solutions. They regarded high-score assets (manage stress; energise body; engage emotion, train mind, the spirit in action) as evidence of resilience, whereas low-score liabilities included being a perfectionist (depressed, distressed, vulnerable, withdrawn, disengaged, and confused). Fatigue, intensity, concern, self-criticism, overload, apathy, chronic symptoms, sloth, self-doubt, and hypervigilance were identified as key liability variables in this study.

Here are some of the major skills that resilient leaders have that allow them to move past adverse times.

Clarity

Resilient leaders have clarity of thought. They have a positive outlook on what is possible. They seek to make the best of a bad situation, and they have high hopes that something good will emerge from the difficulties they face. In conclusion, resilient leaders show the ability to maintain a positive view in the face of adversity. At the same time, they don’t deny the restrictions posed by reality.

Finding Recovery 

The ability to recover and bounce back also pertains to a temporal factor inherent in resilience. Overwork and tiredness are the polar opposites of resilience, and a resilient person is well-rested. Anchor and Gielan (2017) stress that a lack of a recovery interval drastically holds back our ability to be resilient and successful. According to their findings, there is a direct link between a lack of recovery and an increased occurrence of health and safety issues. Lost productivity is caused by a lack of recovery, whether it is due to work-related thoughts disturbing sleep or continual cognitive stimulation caused by checking phones. They claimed that the key to resilience is to put in a lot of effort, then pause, recover, and try again.

So, if you want to improve your work resilience, you’ll need enough internal and external recovery time. Internal recovery refers to the shorter intervals of relaxation that occur during the workday in the form of short scheduled or unscheduled breaks that shift attention or change work tasks when feeling tired. External recovery refers to activities that occur outside of the workplace, such as in the leisure time between workdays, on weekends, holidays, or during vacations. They claim that when our bodies are out of harmony as a result of overworking, we lose a lot of mental and physical energy attempting to get back in balance before we can go forward.

Personal Values

There are many fuel sources of a resilient leader. One of these fuel sources is the personal values and the ethics that a leader has. It not only defines the character of a leader but also transcends time and context. They help leaders make choices in adverse situations when there are so many competing values at the front. A resilient leader has a strong value system that holds them strong in front of their team, their peers, and the situation.

Personal Efficacy

Personal efficacy, which is exhibited by a leader’s confidence and competence to do the right thing in the face of adversity, is a significant source of resilience capacity. A leader who is resilient and has a strong feeling of personal efficacy:

  • When confronted with high-stakes situations, has faith in his or her ability to reason, make judgments, and take responsibility for personal actions.
  • Assists others in developing a sense of efficacy in their job and fulfilling deadlines.
  • When making decisions, adheres to key principles and ideals. The leader does not sell out; instead, he does what is convenient or simple.
  • Develops a track record of effective leadership in the service of others.

Wellbeing

An effective leader’s most vital source of energy is his or her own wellbeing. Physical wellbeing, emotional wellbeing, and spiritual wellbeing are the three components of this energy source that are needed by a leader to function. Of all the resilience abilities, the most difficult well-being to maintain is personal wellbeing when things get tough. Leaders who fail to restore and refill these vital resources become less resilient and immune to safeguarding themselves when faced with future turbulence as a result of accumulated defeats.

Always remember, a lotus is born out of the mud, not in the freshwater. We are born of nutrients in the dirt. So in order to bloom, we need to come out of the challenges, come out of the mud through resilience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean to say that we are disrupted?

We live in an era of disruption constantly fearing change and this fear elevates when the change is not in our control. It is not something that we as humans plan to do or avoid but it comes naturally, involuntarily, due to our fear of uncertainty. This fear is not something new. It dates back to our ancestors.

What is Resilience?

Resilience is defined as the ability to work through, survive and bounce back from a challenging situation as well as the ability to deal with adversity. It is like finding the correct path and succeeding in that path. So, investigating resilience allows us to recognise that it is a trait that is distinctly particular and unique.

Who is a resilient leader?

A resilient leader is capable of reacting to unforeseen circumstances that are crucial to their existence. They not only react to such situations, but also ensure that their energy level is maintained and that they are able to recover from the disturbance.

What is the most critical element of resilient leadership?

The most significant characteristic of resilient leadership is that it emerges from adversity without engaging in dysfunctional behaviour and without causing harm to others. 

What are the popular skills of resilient leadership?

Some of the popular skills of resilient leadership are as follows: clarity, finding the recovery, personal values, personal efficacy, and wellbeing. These skills allow them to move past adverse times.

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