What does it mean to be a resilient leader?
Resilience is a byproduct of neuroplasticity – a process where your brain adapts to your environment, thoughts, emotions and behaviours. Resilience is a measurement of how well you can adapt and handle the various stressful situations you encounter daily.
Leaders are responsible for a wide range of tasks, including the management of their team. The added pressure of managing a teams success can significantly increase stress levels, even when a problem arises, that isn’t severe.
Resilience in a leader allows them to remain level headed, evaluate possible solutions while maintaining the confidence of their team.
We once believed that our brain could only make changes during our childhood. We now know that it is no longer the case. Neuroplasticity indicates how our minds build new connections and strengthen/weaken the ones we do or don’t use. Treat it like a muscle; If we use it, it gets more robust; if we don’t, it begins to wither away.
Contrary to some belief, resiliency is something that can be stimulated actively, rather than passively. To create new pathways within our brain, we first have to subject our mind to particular stimuli.
Neuroplasticity and resilience as a whole are highly spoken about topics in the working environment. They closely resemble the idea of a growth mindset – a mindset most employers look for in a leader. A growth mindset is a belief that explains how you can improve your abilities and skills through consistent effort.
Neuroplasticity explains how our brains can do just that.
Why Do Leaders Need to Be Resilient?
Bouncing back from a failure or critical set back is a sought after trait amongst leaders. It means there is no down-time between activities and tasks; moral is controllable amongst teams and eyes are set on the future, rather than dwelling on the past.
Your team will turn to you when things get complicated. Being able to provide them with the strength they need can be the difference between success and imminent failure. Being resilient can also be a means to open up more opportunities.
Building resilience isn’t something you can do overnight. As we’ve learned from neuroplasticity, we need to build the connections in our brains to strengthen them continuously.
Here are five ways you can start focusing on and growing your resilience:
Be Deliberate With Your Learning & Growth
We can’t build more neuro connections if we don’t actively seek new information. Resiliency determines your ability to adapt to changing circumstances, perhaps even under high-stress situations. While you may know you need to adapt, you won’t know how to if you’ve been relying on the same approach for years.
Learning should be a big part of our lives, regardless of whether you are in a leadership position or not. Yet, for leaders, being deliberate about what you learn can put you on an entirely different pedestal.
Learning new approaches and strategies for potential problems can help to create a response plan should something go array. Learning from a different perspective or position can help your brain consider various options, not just the ones natural to your approach.
Businesses should implement training programs for leaders and teams to help build their resiliency. However, what makes you stand out is your ability to see the potential you have and to take responsibility for your learning.
It’s a great idea to take a pro-active approach and seek out opportunities.
Devote Time for Reflection
It’s disheartening to see a leader make the same mistake twice. I always look at reflection as an opportunity, whether that is in life or in the workplace. Doing so provides a chance to look back at what went wrong, how you responded and identify what there is to learn from that particular event.
Seldom is reflection used to analyse positive situations, but the same benefits can be had by doing so. We overlook positive results because, well, they went right.
We can’t learn from something if it was successful, right?
Reflecting on these events once they have closed can highlight many things that went wrong or small hiccups that could be avoided in the future.
The reflection process can be invaluable in building resiliency. You can identify other avenues for completion, alternative strategies that could’ve achieved better results and open your mind up to the potential to adapt in a better way if the same situation presents itself.
Fear is the biggest killer for taking risks.
Fearing the potential for failure hinders our ability to take action. Conforming to the comfortable, predictable option is safer, but prevents us from developing.
In truth, there will be situations where you don’t have the luxury of time. A decision must be made and quickly, your team turn to you, what is your response?
Situations like these become 100 times more stressful and overbearing without the experience of taking risks. Making difficult decisions is a trait most great leaders share. That comes with the understanding that you can bounce back if the result is undesirable.
Handling this type of stress when unfamiliar, as seen by various research, leads to a decrease in the quality of decisions made. Developing resiliency through risk-taking allows you to be in control, regardless of how dire the situation appears.
Cultivate a Strong, Trusting Network
A strong, trusting network comes in two parts:
- Having an effective team that can communicate effectively and can adapt when necessary
- A team/network that isn’t afraid to give honest feedback, opinions and share their thoughts
Resiliency might be something that we focus on for ourselves, but external influences still have an impact. Understanding how our decisions are affecting those around us can help us see where our decision making needs improvement.
Leaders should have the ability to adapt where necessary, but they will rarely be the ones to adapt alone. They should be able to rally their team and work on implementing the solution together. Influencing, directing and leading, in general, becomes significantly more challenging if there isn’t a strong relationship between leader and team member.
Some situations see resolution through the combination of multiple people adapting on the fly. Being able to build these relationships is often seen as a trait shared amongst those with high resilience.
Similarly, feedback can be a great identifier of our overall performance. Leveraging this feedback can help us see the areas within ourselves that need improvement.
How does this help our resiliency?
Feedback is rarely only positive. Constructive criticism is a beneficial way to learn how to improve. When challenging situations arise, we become more comfortable asking those hard-hitting questions. Handling criticism also becomes much more comfortable.
Both of these areas can quickly derail a leaders mindset, causing them to make hasty decisions or let their emotions run rampage.
Communicate Effectively & Become Decisive
Nothing brings a team more safety than knowing what their leader is doing and how it impacts them. Communicating the direction you wish to take while being open to helping others understand this new direction is powerful.
We are all wired differently. A team member may need something explaining differently to grasp the potential fully and their ability to adapt according to the goal increases when you keep them up to date.
Unfortunately, no one can understand or predict every eventuality. Making an informed decision is almost impossible without the right information present. When it comes time to make that decision, your team will turn to you to give the green light.
Indecision, at the best of times, can make situations worse. Being indecisive can create a negative perception with your team and those around you.
Those resilient can decide with confidence and certainty; they can immediately shift directions should their previous decision be wrong.
Becoming a Resilient Leader
There area few reasons why you would want to become more resilient:
- To increase your quality of life in the face of a changing world
- To become more appealing to businesses as a leader
- To be able to circumvent situations and remain in control
Your ability to commit to your learning, cultivate strong relationships, take risks and communicate effectively all contribute to improving your resilience muscle. Remember that strengthening your resiliency takes time and consistent effort.
Being able to maintain focus on a particular goal and keep your eyes forward is a trait you likely possess as a leader. Yet, introducing another goal to focus on your personal development, especially in the face of adversity, can be invaluable in the workplace.
Your team will hold you in high regards and work closely with you to ensure you can adapt to any situation that stands in your way.
If, however, you are struggling to build that resiliency and feel like something is holding you back, look for a solution. Part of self-growth is being coachable. Reach out and let’s have a chat about how we can break through those barriers.