How well do you bounce forward as a leader?

Resilience is the key to enduring leadership. Leaders who possess resilience are better equipped to navigate challenges, inspire their teams, and lead their organizations to success. By cultivating a growth mindset, prioritizing self-care, seeking feedback, and maintaining a positive outlook, leaders can build and strengthen their resilience.

Nelson Mandela was a master of creating resilience. He was sent to prison as a young activist who believed in taking up violent means of resistance when the justice system failed. Twenty-seven years later, he was released and began to advocate peace and reconciliation. During his long confinement, Mandela mastered the art of self-leadership. He took inspiration in the poem Invictus, written by William Ernest Henley, which ends with the line “I am the master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul.”

Leaders are constantly under pressure to perform and succeed, which can lead to stress and anxiety. This is especially true when they face unexpected challenges or setbacks that can derail their progress. It’s important to develop resilience to bounce forward from these setbacks and continue moving forward. 

Being clear about what is important to you – your inner purpose and values – will support your decision-making and help you prioritise the different demands on your attention and time. Having a strong sense of self-awareness (you’ll know your vulnerabilities as well as your strengths) will enable you to identify personal risks at times when there is a danger of things overwhelming you or you are taking on too much without enlisting the support of others.

These ideas link neatly to what PotentialSquared calls the 3 Cs of conviction, confidence, and connection. Conviction is where you can use an underlying ‘true self’ version of your values, passions, infinite purpose, and experiences to fuel your energy and focus. Confidence is how you act physically and vocally with confidence – being resilient and positive in the face of uncertainty and challenges. Connection is how you enable a wisdom-based connection with others – that allows you to dance to the music they bring, whilst dealing in the moment with the challenges of your changing mindset and mood set. 

Ultimately, resilient leaders manage to sustain their energy levels when under intense pressure, and cope well and adapt to disruptive changes. They bounce forward from setbacks. They overcome major difficulties without engaging in dysfunctional behaviour or harming others. Resilience is a crucial characteristic of high-performing leaders and leaders must cultivate it in themselves to advance and thrive.

Harvard Business Review highlights 6 strategies for leading through uncertainty: 

  1. Distinguish between complicated and complex challenges: 
    Complicated – dealing with multiple issues and getting through them in a step-by-step manner. Complex – unpredictable, systemic issues where there is a need to create emergent solutions. 
  2. Resist oversimplification – resist bias for action. Assess what the core issue is and then act.
  3. Sit in the discomfort of not knowing – leaders are often hardwired to know the answers, however, there is a risk they may act before knowing the whole picture. Create a mindset of not ‘knowing it all’ but ‘learning it all’.
  4. Do not go it alone – leaders need a diversity of input and perspectives.
  5. Let go of perfectionism – leaders cannot know the perfect answer when everything is uncertain. Learn from mistakes.
  6. Zoom out – look at the bigger picture rather than getting stuck in the detail. “Move from the dance floor to the balcony” as quoted from The Practice of Adaptive Leadership by Heifetz, Linsky and Grashaw. 

Credit: Harvard Business Review – 6 Strategies for Leading Through Uncertainty by Rebecca Zucker
and Darin Rowell

Download our free leadership guide 5 Ways to Build Leadership Resilience.