Leadership – Powered by Resilience

‘So what is resilience really about?’ asked my leader-in-training. Knowing that multilingual environments can frequently lead to misinterpretations, I simply had no choice — a demonstration was needed right there and then.

I took a balloon and pressed my finger into the exterior wall to make an indentation. For the balloon, I was the cause of an agitation that wasn’t the norm, forcing an unexpected change. Yet, as soon as I released the pressure, the balloon bounced back to its original, uncompressed form.

‘What you have just witnessed, my friend, is resilience’, I declared. Whether that demonstration equated to ‘resilience for dummies’ or ‘advanced reflection on cause and effect under pressure’, it resulted in an in-depth discussion about resilience and its effect on workplace environments.

Conditions in the workplace will always be present, challenging a leader. Yet a leader remains resilient and focused in the face of hardship and struggle for one main reason. The leader can see a better future, a future of hope and less frustration, one that will be positive for all around. That person will not make a conscious effort to focus but rather when a strong and unabated belief in this future state exists, it simply eradicates any and all challenges in its path, effortlessly moving ahead.

Inventors are often described as leaders, as they believe in greater efficiency. Grace Choi of Mink who recently invented ‘printable makeup’ simply believed it was high time for cheaper makeup alternatives. Entrepreneurs are often described as leaders, forging their way through both good and bad business cycles. Homemakers can be described as leaders as they continue to focus on their children’s education through the challenges of putting food on the table. Indeed – leadership is everyone’s job, and the one commonality in all is the visible presence of resilience.

So what is important for employees in order to display leadership qualities and resilience with their everyday challenges?

  • They need to trust and align with the leader’s beliefs

Their leader needs to be credible, as through the eyes of the employee. After all, we are only a leader if others think we are. This then increases believability and willingness to support a leader’s cause and directions.

  • They need to be able to see a future that their leader does

This will rarely happen through a statement on the wall, but rather some pictures of what it looks like, and continual reference to its appearance. To be willing to go to new places and achieve new goals, we will always see that place first in our mind’s eye. This is where inspiration and excitement is nurtured.

  • They need to know that it’s ok to experiment and try new things

If it truly is a new way of work that is required, mistakes will surely happen. When these are viewed as learning opportunities, confidence will continue.

  • They need to know they are provided with the support they need

Confidence and competence contribute to soaring results and willingness to forge new ways.

  • They need to know that it’s about both ‘me’ and ‘we’

Rewards for individual achievement will be a small win, attracting praise and accolades. When that translates into everyone’s small wins collaborating, a spirit of community will emerge, and focus on the future with hope will be propelled exponentially.

Coining Kouzes* and Posner’s definition of leadership: Leadership is the art of mobilizing others to want to struggle for shared aspirations. Never before has the world of work been more uncertain and more complex, yet building resilience into your toolkit will indeed ensure the struggle will be less burdensome, reaping benefit and progress for all.

Debbie Nicol, the managing director of Dubai-based ‘business en motion’, is a consultant working with strategic change, leadership and organisational development. Email her at debbie.nicol@businessenmotion.com.

*James Kouzes is a key note speaker at HR Summit & Expo 2015 and will hold sessions on The Leadership Challenge framework.