What is Resilient Leadership?
At Conversant, we think of resilience as the ability to turn stress and disappointment into strength, achievement and joy. Leading change in complex organizations is difficult, if not impossible, without it; perhaps that’s why so many strategic change efforts fail with rigid, inflexible leaders at the helm.
If you believe that agility is important to achievement and organizational alignment, we offer you what we’ve noticed about resilient leaders we admire and rigid leaders we don’t.
Resilient leaders we admire cultivate:
- Presence: awareness without prejudice or dismay. Instead of objecting to what is happening, they breathe, connect and reflect.
- Authenticity: trusting the truth. Instead of lies and withheld information, they count on the unbiased truth to deepen trust and accelerate progress.
- Responsibility: owning the moment. Instead of avoiding the duty of leadership, they admit mistakes, learn lots and inspire others to do the same.
- Empathy: honoring the experience of others. Instead of self-absorption, they discover and respect the efforts, cares and insights of others involved.
- Confidence: having faith in our collective capability. Instead of cynical criticism, they keep their eyes and hearts open to new ways of achieving our most important purposes.
- Joy: supporting and celebrating contribution. Instead of always-on criticism, they do all they can to help others enjoy making a meaningful difference.
Rigid leaders we worry about cultivate:
- Denial: this should not be happening! Instead of embracing the moment, they object, suffer and infect others with the same disconnected dismay.
- Deception: preserve my image! Dissemble and distort in order to look good and be falsely admired.
- Blame: it is their fault, not mine! Instead of evolving myself and bringing people together to face a challenge, they tear us apart with accusation and shame.
- Arrogance: my view is the only view! Instead of learning from others, they limit the entire organization to their rigid, inadequate agenda.
- Despair: oh no, here we go again! Instead of inspiring optimistic effort, they infect others with the fear that our disappointments are our future.
- Depletion: stress wins! Instead of the rejuvenating power of reflection, learning and community, their incessant discontent incites intellectual, emotional and physical decline.
Both lists above are useful, because resilient leadership requires that I notice when I’m rigid and shift to being resilient. Leading with resilience is an art of correction, not perfection, and noticing my rigid moments begins the pivot.
A CEO we respect said, “Resilience means accepting the always unfinished challenge of being a leader because I can’t evolve an organization unless I’m evolving, too. The moment I’m finished, so is anything I’m leading.”
If you agree that resilience is important and calls for us to embrace the always unfinished challenge of leadership then we extend an invitation: join us in exploring the pivot from rigid to resilience. This could be as simple as picking one of the rigid signals to look for and one of the resilient signals to pivot toward.