August 16, 2021
My quick answer: a resounding YES. My longer answer, however, is that we need to explore the concept of resilience. This, I believe, will help us better understand its role in leadership.
Psychology Today defines ‘resilience’ as “the psychological quality that allows some people to be knocked down by the adversities of life and come back at least as strong as before.” If interested, you can read more here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/resilience
I want to dissect the definition here and offer some insights. First, I love the idea that this definition doesn’t apply to everyone. Notice the phrase, “some people.” I can definitely think of family, friends, and clients who’ve endured tremendous tragedy and ‘bounced back’ to where they were. Whether from an emotional, spiritual, and/or intellectual perspective, they undoubtedly exhibited strength.
It’s a sentiment I’m familiar with. The good ol’ ‘fall seven times, stand up eight’ approach to living. As a product of a military upbringing, I know this all too well.
Nevertheless, I have to acknowledge that certain life situations don’t necessarily afford a clean ‘bounce back.’ Let’s take grief for example. 2020 brought with it a host of challenges. For example, we experienced enormous exposure to death on a daily basis as a nation. We also walked through non-death-related losses of many kinds. In addition, we remain in the midst of this season, riddled with much uncertainty, overwhelm, and continued loss. While many certainly have returned to their baseline levels of functioning, unfortunately, many have not.
To say the least, resilience is complicated and not a ‘once size fits all’ concept.
I would argue that resiliency in the leadership space looks like acknowledgment of life’s adversities, first and foremost. Further, its focus is less on the ‘bounce back’ from the challenge and more on the vulnerability involved in facing life head-on again.
As I think about individuals who I consider leaders — in both work-related and personal spaces — the common thread is openness about the struggle. On top of that, the focal point for these folks wasn’t necessarily the ‘comeback.’ On the contrary, many noted that they weren’t the same as they were prior to a challenging life experience. In addition, some even noted emotional, spiritual, and/or physical declines as a result of their life challenge. Yet, they continued to show up, serve, and be vulnerable with others.
Essentially, they were less committed to the outcome (i.e., the ‘bounce back’ of it all) and more wedded to the process of becoming whoever they needed to be. Even if this meant not returning to who they were before.
Taken together, resilient leadership may actually be anchored in one’s ability to name the struggle and strive. The goal, therein, is not necessarily to get back to an original state, but to embrace the present moment. It’s an interesting perspective, right?
I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on your life struggles and consider the good, bad, and ugly about notions of resilience. You may indeed recognize the value and strengths associated with who you’ve become, even if it’s vastly different than who you were before.
Either way, let me know what you discover. You can leave a comment below.
As always, I value and celebrate you for showing up for yourself. I’m here for that!
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