Early in my career, a mentor gave me one of the strangest and most meaningful gifts I’ve ever received – a sponge. She could tell I was perplexed, so she explained: “As a leader, you’re like this sponge. Stress and challenges and adversity will pour over you at times and it’s your job to soak it up so that it doesn’t drown your team.”
I remember being daunted by the idea that it was my job to soak up stress so it didn’t affect those around me and to be honest, I probably put too much pressure on myself as a result. But I also took her words – and her vision of my role – to heart.
But I quickly learned that her vision was incomplete. Before long, I was stretched thin and starting to show it. I didn’t know what to do with all the stress I was absorbing. I didn’t know how to rebound from the adversity and challenges around me. Simply put, I was floundering.
Looking back on that young leader now, I recognize that I was struggling because no one had ever told me about the importance of resilience. Yes, it was my job to present a calm, organized vision to my team, but it wasn’t enough just to fake it. I needed to learn how to actually be calm. To respond effectively to all of the adversity around me and then to address my team.
Resilience wasn’t just critical for me as a young leader – it’s a crucial skill for all leaders, one that too often gets forgotten. We consider resilience as one of the “nice to haves” of leadership, a soft skill that’s a bonus but not really required. The truth is, however, that resilient leaders don’t just feel better about themselves – they drive better results for their teams and organizations as well.
Resilient leaders face challenges quickly and boldly.
One of the central benefits of personal resilience is the ability to adapt quickly to adversity. Leaders who possess this skill are especially valuable in the business world, where problems can arise quickly and delays can be costly. These leaders are able to face challenges head on as soon as they arise, allowing their organizations to respond more effectively and capture an edge over their competition. Moreover, because they tend to see the opportunity in challenges, resilient leaders feel more free to make big, bold moves in response. They position themselves, their teams, and their organizations to be on the cutting edge of new developments and lead the pack in responding to market conditions.
Resilient leaders have a steady optimism that instills confidence and trust in their teams.
Another hallmark of personal resilience is an abiding sense of optimism. Resilient leaders believe they have what it takes to face the obstacles that come their way and they aren’t afraid to share this feeling. Their quiet assurance trickles down to their teams, creating groups of people who are confident in their own ability to deal with adversity. These teams learn to trust and support one another in a way that sustains both high levels of work and deep employee engagement and satisfaction.
Resilient leaders create environments with less anxiety where creativity and innovation flourish.
Finally, resilient leaders help maintain an atmosphere of low anxiety for their teams. Emotions are contagious. Anxiety from a leader breeds anxiety for the team, and nothing stifles innovation and creativity like anxiety. Resilient leaders have an energy that is also contagious, however. Their steady optimism and can-do attitude creates an environment that is open to new ideas and not afraid to allow failure and experimentation. In these environments, team members feel free to innovate, question the status quo, and seek novel solutions to problems.
Resilience is more than a soft skill and it doesn’t just benefit individual leaders. It has a tremendous positive impact on their teams and organizations as well. The good news is that almost anyone can learn to be more resilient. If you’re ready to build more resilient leaders teams in your organization, contact us for information on how we can help.