5 Ways to Build More Resilient Leaders

August 3, 2020 Lynne Levy

3-minute read

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As we confront the wounds of racism, manage the COVID-19 crisis, and figure out how to lead through economic uncertainty, leaders are experiencing anxiety and stress. Now is the time to focus on building resilience, despite such challenges.

In the field of positive psychology, resilience is "the ability to recover from setbacks and adapt to challenging circumstances and is required to thrive and flourish. It is a foundational psychological tool that empowers us to feel effective and capable of handling uncertainty."

Here are some ways leaders can build the resiliency they need to drive organizational success during these uncertain times and do the right thing for employees, customers, and society at large.

Perceive obstacles as challenges. 

When people are confronted with a challenge, many choose to see the challenge as an attack on themselves or a roadblock, hindering their progress and weakening their resilience. Instead, resilient leaders view problems with a sense of curiosity, which makes them more likely to solve the issue at hand and move forward. Current racial tensions and uncertainty around the pandemic have created an opportunity for leaders and employees to change their mindset from reactive to proactive. Leaders must have open and honest conversations about how to reinvent the organization and underlying culture to become more inclusive and effective.

See the upside of stress. 

We tend to think of stress as something to be eliminated. What if you changed your mindset? According to Kelly McGonigal, seeing the upside of stress is choosing to understand how you can leverage your strengths to deal with the challenges causing the stress. Resilience is about taking the stress and turning it into action. 

Be comfortable with uncertainty.

The world around us is changing by the minute. Instead of hoping things go back to normal soon, leaders must embrace the fact that change is a constant. The only way to transform the organization is to be comfortable with uncertainty and see it as part of the organization's journey. Instead of clinging to the past, leaders must lean into vulnerability and take a hard look at some of the norms that must change.

For example:

·        Question the social contract with employees when it comes to hours worked, remote work, and clearly defined roles.

·        Question organizational norms to eliminate microaggressions and racism embedded in work processes.

Learn.

Resilient leaders are continuous learners. According to the Center for Creative Leadership, "it's no longer enough to perform well under the classic definitions of success and progress – leaders are now expected and required to experiment, embrace uncertainty, and generate new solutions."

Reflect.

Whether celebrating a success or managing through a challenge, leaders must give themselves time to reflect on their actions, values, and behaviors. Reflection fosters new perspectives and self-awareness, enhancing personal resiliency. Reflection also gives leaders the strength they need to handle the uncertainty. 

One reflection tool is to recall a time when you were able to rise above a difficult situation in your professional life. 

·      Remember the situation specifics.

·      What was I thinking and feeling at the time? What actions did I take?

·      How did I get through it?

·      What did I learn from the experience that has made me a more resilient person today?

By recalling past resilience, leaders regain the confidence to manage through constant change.

As we confront social unrest and the pandemic, what can companies do next? By getting curious, reflecting, and getting uncomfortable with uncertainty, we will begin to unlearn. We can start to see the social inequities that permeate our society, and we can challenge them. We can begin to recognize employees and leaders throughout the organization as whole, human beings. We can start to see ourselves and our own biases that hold us back. The future of work is here, and resilient leaders will steer the ship toward an ever-changing future.

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About the Author

Lynne Levy

Lynne Levy is a Workhuman evangelist who lives and breathes helping organizations build cultures that bring out the best in the employees. Her mantra is “do what you love, love what you do.”

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