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Are Leaders Resilience Ready?

Updated: Sep 18, 2022

First published in Human Capital Online, 12 November 2021

Resilience is widely understood as the rubber-ball factor, which is the ability to bounce back in the face of adversity. It draws on one’s thinking pattern, mental and emotional health and the overall approach towards life.


NOV 12 2021

Resilience is a multi-faceted and all-encompassing life skill which needs to be practised. It is widely understood as the rubber-ball factor, which is the ability to bounce back in the face of adversity. It draws on one’s thinking pattern, mental and emotional health and the overall approach towards life. According to Michael Unger of the Resilience Research Centre, resilience is ‘the human capacity to navigate and negotiate culturally meaningful resources to sustain their well-being. It has to do with a person’s ability to make plans and follow through with them, to problem solve, and to manage impulses and feelings.’ You cannot possibly cater to it through a one-time training programme. Instead, companies need to focus on improving all the attributes that resilience draws from including Emotional Health, CourageGrowth Mindset, Self-Acceptance and unlearning-re-learning ability Are We Emotionally Educated and Healthy? Picture this, you are 5 years old and you get hurt, you would howl because either you have gotten terribly hurt or you simply want your mother’s attention and hugs. And just in case, you do not find your mother for some reason, you would run to your father, grandparents or a sibling instead. Now you have turned 12 and you have hurt yourself, you would yell out of pain and want someone to rush towards you, show care and hug you before applying a band-aid. At age 18, you have had a brawl at school, few boys and teachers mocked you. You are hurt and feel insulted and small inside. Even if you are feeling miserable emotionally, you would tell yourself, “I am a grown-up, so why bother someone?” and decide to quietly deal with the physical as well as emotional pain. The entire scenario of acknowledging and respecting one’s emotional need worsens when we turn into an adult. If it is particularly a psychological need, pondering about seeking help or sharing our worries or troubles makes us look ‘less capable or matured’. We are convinced that it is unreasonable to seek support or even feel the need to get pampered anymore. As adults, whenever we get hurt or are in pain, we fail to acknowledge and refuse to address it as well. The biggest irony is, deep inside we are fully cognisant of the fact that we need help and seek support too. So, why this convoluted perspective towards emotional health? Perhaps it has something to do with our flawed beliefs like:- "We must solve all our problems ourselves” “As an adult, you should know all the answers in life” “Being independent means, stop asking for emotional support” These beliefs typify leaders in any given organisation. We are well aware of the pandemic’s grave impact on the emotional health and well-being of every individual. The various ailments that we are suffering today, find their roots in the bottled-up emotions or lack of emotional first-aid. Providing us with enough reasons to educate our employees about the ebb. flow and expression of our emotional needs. Peter Scazzero, in one of his studies on Emotionally Healthy Leaders, sums up by saying – ‘What you do matters and WHO you are matters even more’ Ask yourself a few reflective questions– Q. Are you providing emotional education to yourself and the employees? Q. Do you think it is a critical skill for empathetic leadership? Q. Do you feel it can help foster an emotionally safe and happy workplace? If you have been doing your best, yet are unable to create an impact or feel powerless to change the environment, it is time you start focussing on the inner health and invest in your core as a leader. Courage is Crucial for ‘Growth Mindset’ in Leaders We have all heard courage is an ability to challenge the status quo or move ahead despite the fears or past failures. To me, it is an ability to make tenacious efforts and challenge oneself to overcome inner weaknesses, rise above the odds and turn one’s dreams into a reality. Believing in yourself and the limitless potential of life, allows you to operate out of abundance -that is a courageous heart and WINNER MINDSET! Ordinary leaders may succumb to odds in life as well as at work whereas the courageous ones can turn obstacles into an opportunity. If you are wondering how can this possibly be gauged or fostered in a company. That is great as you are already thinking in the right direction:– a) You can seek stories within the organisation on ‘Turning around Turbulent times’ b) Conduct surveys or polls to identify the employees /people who have not succumbed to their adversities and turned the situation around for themselves and others These are your potential future leaders, invest your time in grooming them. Let us be cognizant of the fact that ‘Work and Life’ are not two mutually exclusive entities. We are ‘who we are’ when we are at the workplace too. How we feel and deal with our life reflects in how we solve work related problems and reach out to business goals. Therefore, invariably leaders who otherwise possess a forwardlooking attitude as a person would be the ones who can gracefully embrace their vulnerabilities and challenge the status quo. Tough times like these have brought out the importance of extraordinary character and spirit over being a visionary or a great planner. The Leadership Mantra has surely evolved in this VUCA world. In a recent conversation with a friend, I came across an apt analogy on how to cope with uncertainty and the overwhelming feelings around it. Say you are planning to go to Goa from Pune by road, to begin with, you will not be able to see Goa, right? You can see only as far as the headlight reaches and for you to reach your final destination, what is required is to have the requisite resources and to simply set out on the path. Leaders who understand this and are able to operate out of an infinite mindset like Simon Sinek says can seamlessly co-create ways to get around any obstacle or adversity too. Each time you solve a problem or make something happen it will help build the resilience muscle. ‘A growth mindset puts you in the driver’s seat of your own life and empowers you to take the wheel. We all deserve the chance to learn’ – Susan David Self-Acceptance, Unlearning & Relearning Breeds Resilience You can tap into your highest potential if you are able to fully embrace your imperfections and are ready to take the actions necessary to take you there (ethically). Let us take an example. Sumit has recently started his business and has brought it to a break-even stage in just a year, despite the pandemic. He, however, has not been able to pull it further and has also started incurring losses recently. He feels that he has failed since the market is volatile and has been unable to reap profits due to the digital era. In this case, Sumit is apparently unable to acknowledge his leadership capabilities or his shortcomings w.r.t the need to upskill himself on technical know-how and digital marketing perhaps. If your will to do or change something is more than the fear to lose or ‘what if ’ worry, you will emerge with resilience. There may be times when what we know or how much we know may also block our development and growth. Hence, decluttering one’s mind and unlearning is equally critical to make your goals pliable. If you are able to accept who you are, including your flaws and shortcomings, it is liberating. Lack of self-acceptance results in self-doubt and criticism, slandering one’s self-esteem and dignity. Therefore, it is all about understanding oneself and being open to newness. Resilience means moving forward without fail, shedding the load of what’s not serving you well, investing in oneself to acquire the requisite skills necessary to sail through the storm. Unhook and Reboot Leaders operating out of a need to control and command are not the ones that can take your business to the next level. Businesses need to strategize to manage the Leadership derailers and reboot the culture fabric to thrive, post-covid. Leaders who showcase a strong character, emotional health and lead from a space of trust and transparency i.e. operate above the line in a Drama Triangle (Social Model of Human Interaction) by Stephen B Karpman, are able to turn: Victims into creators (who take responsibility) Villains into challengers (who can provide loving pressure / inspiration) Heroes into coaches (who can foster a supportive environment) Resilient Leaders can drive the inner re-engineering and bring sustainable transformation in how businesses are run instead of focusing on a results-only approach.


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