Resilience for Leaders
Bamboo is a symbol of longevity because of its durability, strength, flexibility, and resilience. It survives in the harshest conditions, still standing tall and staying green year-round. When the storm comes, bamboo bends with the wind. When the storm ceases, it resumes its upright…
Bamboo is a symbol of longevity because of its durability, strength, flexibility, and resilience. It survives in the harshest conditions, still standing tall and staying green year-round. When the storm comes, bamboo bends with the wind. When the storm ceases, it resumes its upright position.
There is a ‘perfect storm’ of crises brewing that will test our individual and collective resilience for years to come. Covid-19 is just the amuse bouche. As we live through the most challenging health crisis, socio-political crisis, and economic crisis in recent history, we must all invest real time, energy, and attention to building our own resilience. Otherwise we as individuals, and as a species, simply won’t flourish. Nobody can build resilience for us. But resilience is everyone’s birthright.
As I detail in my book ‘Now Lead The Change; Repurpose Your Career, Future-Proof Your Organization, and Regenerate Our Crisis-Hit World By Mastering Transformational Leadership’, the novel coronavirus is demonstrating that societies that prioritize productivity, consumer addictions, and GDP above all else lack the psychological and physiological resilience — and healthcare and welfare ‘redundancies’ (excess capacity to cope with surges) — needed in a profound and prolonged crisis.
As individuals and leaders of families, organizations, and communities if we leave proactive adaptation and necessary change until it is too late — and pressures to change develop into full-blown crises — we usually no longer have the time, resources, will, energy, trust, and resilience needed to land the transformations that are needed.
A number of research studies have confirmed that ‘positive’ emotions drive creativity, inventiveness, big-picture thinking; and build resilience. Our positive emotions are the biological drivers we need for resilient agility and adaptability. We cannot be conscious, flexible, fluid, and free leaders (or individuals in any area of our life) without taking full ownership of our interoceptive and emotional resilience.
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It is the primary goal of conscious and transformational leadership—and all self-mastery—to maintain a clear and pellucid consciousness within ourselves that allows possibility spaces and creative thoughts to arise even in times of great stress. Only then can we make both wise and smart decisions in the quotidian moments of choice where our legacy as leaders is laid down.
The transformational leader sees the building of resilience through ‘self-care’ as an essential part of leading and landing future-forward transformation. This is not about narcissistic bliss, middle-class indulgences, or hedonistic escapism. It is about doing what we need to do for ourselves so we can be on our ‘Leadership Edge’ for others.
I invite you to take seriously the development of a self-care strategy that preempts stress and overwhelm; and an embodied wisdom approach that inoculates you against the life, love, and leadership crises that inevitable arise when we fail to metabolize mismatches in the moment. You must proactively take steps if you want to avoid the twin specters of burnout and breakdown! I recommend building yourself various non-negotiable practices within a Personal Resilience Plan that includes some, or all of, the following (all of which are based on multiple strands of scientific evidence):
1. Exploring intermittent fasting, which research says can prolong life and boost health
2. Maximizing the quality of nutrients coming into your bodymind. For example, ingesting more fiber and Vitamin D
3. Anchoring into your schedule near-daily aerobic exercise; and regular non-aerobic resistance training
4. Developing stringent ‘sleep hygiene’ (arising and sleeping at similar times each day, within a bedroom space that feels like a sanctuary)
5. Maintaining clear and sacred boundaries, both digital and relational, that keep your consciousness safe and nurtured
6. Building in recovery time (including pottering about or daydreaming) to recharge your batteries, as top athletes do
7. Ensuring you give yourself near-daily space and time to properly and compassionately process the crises, challenges, and emotional strains of your life
8. Developing at least one “reconnection practice” to switch on your heart and feel connection/safety within
Meditation, yoga, conscious or ecstatic dance, chi gong, aikido, transformational breathwork, mindful walking — and a score of others — are all great options for reconnection practices. Over time, reconnection practices will deepen your embodied wisdom and enable you to discern which of the four guidances you are sensing in a moment: instinct (protection), intelligence (control), intuition (connection), or insight (creativity).
There is also a ‘bonus’ 9th pillar of resilience: a genuine, abiding, and heartfelt leadership purpose. A truly transformational leader is unafraid to go on the lifelong journey to find, refine, and fully express her/his purpose in work and business; metabolizing all the inevitable failures of life and leadership into upgrade opportunities for his/her work as a leader of purpose-driven projects.
There is a major “purpose dividend” to this: a career with limitless meaning and fulfillment; a grounding in something that feels stable and essential even in dizzyingly complex and chaotic environments; and a limitless wellspring of energy and resilience that never falters.
But there is also a “purpose premium” to be paid: To become truly transformational, we have to risk giving up the comfort and convenience of following societal rules, parental expectations, and conventional career tracks and truly care about people and planet. But that is for another story!
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