5 Tips to become a resilient leader

Over the last two years, the pandemic has challenged us to reassess our organizational structures, redefine our processes, and adapt our leadership styles. While there’s certainly a light at the end of the tunnel, many of the changes we’ve made as a society are here to stay. As we continue to have discussions about how we can build resilience in the face of uncertainty, it’s important for us to think about how we can not only build stronger organizations but also improve our resiliency as individuals. In this article, we explore five tips leaders can implement to improve their long-term leadership capabilities and develop sustainable careers.

5 Tips to Become a Resilient Leader

Here are five tips you can use to become a resilient leader, navigate challenging situations, and guide your organization successfully:

1.   Focus on the core challenge

When we’re faced with an unexpected challenge, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. In crisis situations, many leaders start to chip away at small problems and residual issues instead of addressing what’s causing these issues in the first place. For example, we’re hearing numerous stories about companies experiencing labor shortages. In an effort to increase their employee retention rates, we’ve seen company leaders unroll new mentorship programs, revamp their onboarding processes, and offer all sorts of in-office perks before identifying why employees continue to leave their companies. While these may seem like excellent steps to take, if the real reason employees are leaving is because they feel underpaid, it may be more cost-effective to allocate these resources toward employee wages than new company programs and initiatives. These leaders are treating a symptom without fully understanding the heart of the issue.

Treating the symptoms instead of the root cause can also lead to burnout as a leader. If it feels like every time you put out a small fire, three more appear, it may be time to take a step back and reassess the situation. Consider what data you can collect from your colleagues and team members to help you identify the core challenge your organization faces. This may involve having one-on-one conversations or creating a survey that employees can fill out anonymously. Then take the time to review the information you gather objectively. Look for trends and develop an action plan that addresses them. This can help you develop an effective game plan and become a more resilient leader.

Related: Reach Your Long-Term Goals with the Three Horizon Framework

2.   Reframe the situation

Times of crisis force us to think differently as entrepreneurs and leaders within our organizations. As many of the systems we used just last year become antiquated, it is critical for us to take the time to objectively define the problem at hand and reframe it with a clear hypothesis to arrive at an innovative solution.

However, even the best leaders may find it challenging to accurately assess a situation that they’re emotionally invested in. When tension runs high, it’s important to get a second — or a third, or even a fourth — opinion. Consider which of your colleagues you can trust to provide honest and objective feedback during these times. You can have a conversation with a trusted third-party outside of your organization who may be able to assess the challenge with a fresh set of eyes.

Gathering input from multiple sources and actively listening to what other leaders in your organization have to say can help you reframe the situation and approach it with a more holistic view. This can help you develop a more strategic and well-rounded approach to lead your team through even the most critical challenges.

Related: Innovating During Times of Uncertainty

3.   Collaborate with key thought leaders

Ask yourself what your leadership network looks like — and whether it includes your competitors. Collaborating with thought leaders in your industry is an excellent way to expand your perspective and fuel innovative endeavors, but it requires you to let go of the fear that someone else might steal your ideas. While collaboration can be mutually beneficial and drive innovation forward, a competitive mindset often holds us back from reaching our full potential by convincing us we need to safeguard every idea we develop.

Building a network of key thought leaders in your industry can provide you with invaluable resources, advice, and perspectives. This is particularly important when a crisis strikes that affects an entire industry or region, such as a global pandemic or supply chain issues. Being able to discuss these challenges candidly with other leaders can help you brainstorm ideas together and look for opportunities to lend each other support. For example, you might realize that temporarily pooling your resources with another leader in a similar industry can provide both of your organizations with the capabilities you need to meet consumer demand.

Looking for opportunities to connect with other business leaders, share feedback with each other, and combine your resources can help you cultivate a collaborative mindset that increases your speed to market and encourages open innovation.

Related: 7 Upcoming Megatrends To Tap Into

4.   Be transparent

While your employees may not need to know about every small challenge you face throughout the course of your day, being strategically transparent during times of crisis can help you reduce stress. Communicating openly with key leaders on your team can empower them to hone their problem-solving skills and develop unique solutions to challenges that may benefit the entire organization. Ask yourself what information your team needs to do their jobs effectively. For example, while you may not want to alert your entire team about upcoming layoffs, you may benefit from informing team members that you’re changing directions on a project if it has a direct effect on them. Use clear, concise language to convey these updates and provide them with the opportunity to ask questions.

If the challenge you’re facing causes a disruption for your consumers, it’s also important to be honest with them. Whether you’re experiencing delayed deliveries or having difficulties sourcing raw materials, explain the situation briefly and focus on what solutions you’re working toward. Finally, thank your consumers for their patience and understanding. Showing a little vulnerability and gratitude can go a long way to saving your organization’s reputation and building brand loyalty. This can help you become a more resilient leader and build a more resilient organization.

Related: What Kind of Culture Best Fosters Innovation?

5.   Set clear boundaries

The boundary between personal and professional life is often muddled for organizational leaders. With emails and Slack messages at our fingertips 24/7, it can be challenging to get away from work completely — and in times of crisis, it’s easy to see how this tendency to be available at all hours can get out of hand.

While being there for your team is important, it’s critical to establish boundaries around your personal time. Carving out space to spend with your loved ones, practice your faith, enjoy your hobbies, and simply be is not only healthy, it’s also essential for the long-term stability of you as a resilient leader. After all, you can’t continue to support your team or make key organizational decisions if you’re depleting yourself day after day.

Schedule your personal time by blocking off sections of your calendar and treating these events like meetings with yourself. Then, let the appropriate people on your team know when they can — and can’t — reach you. If you choose to make exceptions for emergencies, define what an emergency situation looks like and share this information with your team. After all, one person’s small fire may be another person’s code red. Establishing these guidelines can help your team understand which situations can wait until the next morning and which situations require a phone call at 9:00 PM on a Friday — which can mean the difference between an evening filled with anxiety and a good night of sleep.

Action items

Here are a few action items to help you reflect on your leadership capabilities and identify where there may be opportunities for you to become a more resilient leader. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below!

  1. Consider what your leadership network looks like. Are you surrounding yourself with other thought leaders in your industry, or do you tend to shy away from developing relationships with potential competitors? What might be the benefits and drawbacks of your approach?
  2. On a scale of one to ten, rate how open you are with your team. Do you have a process to help you determine when it’s appropriate to share information about challenges your organization is facing with them? If not, what could this type of process look like?
  3. Think about the boundaries you’ve set in place to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Which boundaries do you have the hardest time enforcing? What steps could you take to hold yourself more accountable in the future?

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