When we think about “resilience,” we typically imagine bouncing back from major hardship. Management theorists have increasingly put forward a more nuanced definition, however: resilience as the ability to adapt to complex change. But in today’s world, that means the demand for resilience is almost constant. With the ongoing onslaught of problems leaders face, and change being the only constant in organizational life, leaders must cultivate resilience as an ongoing skill, not just for the “big moments” of painful setbacks or major change.
After more than 30 years working alongside senior leaders amidst profound change, I have found that there are four strategies you can use to build resilience. These recommendations stem from a significant study of 167 leaders, which revealed that the most resilient leaders know themselves well — their strengths, their triggers, and their convictions. Here’s how to build your resilience through deeper self-knowledge:
Take honest stock of your skills.
Curb misplaced irritability.
Push back on unrealistic expectations instead of passing them on.
Recognize when you’ve fallen into ambivalence and go back to first principles.
Adversity in organizational life, sometimes the result of major change, sometimes the provocateur of it, is a way of life today. Leaders need higher levels of resilience in constant reserve to weather this new normal. Those leaders with strong self-knowledge — who have a clear understanding of their skills and shortcomings, their frustrations, and their core principles — are more likely to sustain those needed reserves of resilience to thrive through adversity and change.
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