Resilience is an indispensable leadership quality – but just how do we go about developing it?
Just how does Novak Djokovic go two sets down against Roger Federer at Wimbledon and against all odds still come back to win 3-2..? Is this resilience stuff rare then? Only for elite athletes? I often think that actors could teach most business leaders a thing or two about the nature of resilience – given the staggering amount of rejection that actors have to cope with means they toughen up quick or change profession.
Is resilience something we can improve? If so, how then do we go about developing it?
“That which does not kill us, makes us stronger” – Friedrich Nietzsche
The opposite is to be sunk and diminished by new and ever changing events, often leading to anxiety and depression. A tired slump where we are unable to deal with change and anxiously defend old ways of doing things. Surely such anxiety is born of fear? And we know that fear is associated with ego or to put it another way our inability to let go lightly of whatever we are holding on to.
When the fuel of adaptability runs out, we are no longer able to bounce back. Resilience is movement, fluid, flowing, motion, energy. It is the opposite of ego, repetition, being stuck, holding on.
A 2011 HBR report found that optimism is absolutely crucial in terms of fostering resilience. https://hbr.org/2011/04/building-resilience
By the way actors are probably the most optimistic folk you’ll ever meet. We are forever, secretly hoping and partly believing that the next agent phone call will be the lead role in that mega budget Spielberg epic, opposite Jennifer Lawrence, filming in dozens of beautiful international locations, a multi million dollar contract which is SO overdue now etc etc. When the agent call actually relates to an audition first thing tomorrow morning for a health & safety training film the actor’s enthusiasm is blunted and a good deal of optimism is extinguished. But within no time that actor has to appraise the situation in as positive a way as possible and understand that the Spielberg epic is just a couple of calls away. And put on a brave face for the training film audition.
Reframing & Mindfulness…
The actor unwittingly uses the experienced mediator’s trick of reframing the situation which helps to take regain a calm perspective. This is a skill that can be learnt and practised where “What..!!! I can’t believe it wasn’t the Spielberg film, what the hell is wrong with everyone, what more do I have to do to get that role…!” transforms into “OK, it’s not the dream job but hey I’ve got an opportunity to get a paid job, if I’m honest I kinda need the camera practice and if I keep working regardless who knows what could happen.”
We can also actively and very consciously develop and practice mindfulness. Focusing on ourselves through meditating, breathing and raising our self awareness promotes growth of resilience too.
Fail, Learn, Fail Again…
Resilience is a natural attribute. If not, we’d have stopped trying to walk, stand, even crawl as babies. It must be that we are born with it – it’s there, hard wired into our DNA and our will to survive.
We need to take the nuggets of learning from events and move on. And guess what, when we move on we’ll experience new obstacles unlike the ones before so we’ll learn afresh… again and again… Knowing this could and should be utterly freeing and liberating depending on our state of mind. Want to be a great leader? Develop your resilience and learn to bend with the breeze.
Sartaj Garewal is the founder of Dynamic Presenting – a creative, leadership development consultancy, adapting theatre training to create leadership programs for business.
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