by Carol Grant
One of the most prized leadership attributes at the moment is resilience. In uncertain times, it can be the key survival skill. Some people assume that they just need to develop the hide of a rhinoceros and they’ll be fine.
However, a thick skin can make you insensitive to subtle changes taking place around you. To avoid extinction, it pays to know what true resilience looks like.
If you can keep your head…
As Kipling said, keep your head while all around are losing theirs. This doesn’t mean having all the answers. It does mean keeping calm in the face of uncertainty. If you can, you’re better placed to evaluate choices and options.
Look ahead, not backward
Don’t cling on to past ideas if the old order is changing. Ten years ago, the mantra might have been ‘what matters is what works’. But what works is developing all the time. Social media is a classic example. Be open to possibilities and new ways of working.
There are always choices
At times of uncertainty and stress, emotions run high and people become paralysed by indecision. Remember that you always have a choice, and so do the people around you. They have to be active participants in their own future. For example in team management, you need to be fair and transparent in your approach, but you don’t have to be the ‘mother hen’ shielding them from every consequence of an uncertain world.
Focus, focus, focus
The first thing that goes under pressure is your ability to focus. It’s easy to slip into ‘task’ mode and forget the big goals. Take time every day to stand back and ask what’s really important here. Set out to influence what you can control, and don’t stress about what you can’t control.
Remember emotional intelligence
If you haven’t already read Daniel Goleman’s book on Emotional Intelligence, get yourself a copy. Work on developing both your personal competence (self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation) and your social competence around empathy and relationship skills. Above all, don’t close down and stop communicating with the people around you.
We all go through rough patches. We all make mistakes. The trick is not how badly you mess up, but how well you bounce back. Make sure you don’t let one negative experience become an ongoing narrative in your head: ‘This always happens to me…’ Learn from the past but treat each new situation as a specific challenge.
There are some common symptoms of a lack of resilience – anxiety, exhaustion, a feeling of being overwhelmed. Sounds familiar? So look after yourself. Don’t take solace in overeating or drinking. Get some regular exercise. Maintain your life outside work at all costs. Find peers you can confide in who can offer moral support. Practice mindfulness, the art of being present in the moment. Find out how this builds your resilience here.
Resilience is not a magic quality possessed by the favoured few. It can be developed with practice. And it may just be the thing that keeps you swimming, not drowning.
Carol Grant is a former director of communications at Shelter and the Local Government Association and is now a director of Grant Riches communications consultants. She is also an accredited coach and mentor with the Institute for Management and Leadership.