“Gumby is a great example of the rigid-flexibility needed in a 21st century resilient leader.”
Being a leader is tough duty. On the best days and on the worst days, leadership is tough skating. To be honest, I rarely thought about it from this perspective until I retired. The rearview mirror view certainly shows that this was true across my civilian and military leadership roles. Luckily, I was a resilient leader.
What is a resilient leader? To quote Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “It is a leader who has the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens. Also, the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc. Also, the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress, an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”
Resilient leaders are those who have decided to stay the course, adjusted their lifestyles as needed to ensure they maintain their skillset, heart-set, and mindset. Many times, we associate the term resilience with being physically fit. For the purposes of being a resilient leader, FIT means being able to adapt to a particular condition or circumstance. Maintaining awareness to you, the human being, who is also a leader, is critical to long term success.
A resilient leader is one who is able to sustain optimal well-being and performance even under difficult conditions. This includes balancing their personal, family, and organizational needs.
The challenge of work-life balance is without question one of the most significant struggles faced by modern man.” Stephen Covey
The model of resilience that I focused upon in my last 8 years of senior leadership included eight domains (spiritual, psychological, behavioral, social, physical, nutrition, medical, and environmental) that were targeted to keep my mind and my body as strong as possible so my ability to lead was never placed at risk or compromised. I was focused on leading well and finishing strong.
Specifically, I kept my mind sharp by keeping a spiritual awareness. I am not talking about religion but rather whatever that “something bigger than you” that you connect with to help keep your ethics, morals, and values on-target and strong. I am a faith-person and was blessed with an internal and family-supported faith focus. Other leaders were able to seek out peaceful connection in nature, simulation, or recreation that relaxed and provided an escape and focus-point.
Psychologically, I understood and practiced the coping skills that were helpful and assisted my decision making. I did not engage in negative self-talk and I stayed engaged in the present.
My behaviors were adjusted to support the expectations, busyness, and pace of my leadership roles. I was careful and measured in my use of alcohol and I was constantly aware of reducing risks that could damage or distract me from my responsibilities. I have always been a dirt-bike rider, water-sport enthusiast, and I do enjoy a bourbon drink; I chose to not engage or reduce these while leading. Post-retirement, I re-engaged all of these and some other activities that now provide a much desired relaxation, distraction, and excitement activity that fit my current lifestyle and reduced responsibility.
I have never been an overly-social person. As a leader, I clearly recognized that I needed a support system of people who could help me to connect to the inside of the organization and also to keep me grounded outside the organization. I built lots of great relationships that were organizationally fulfilling and personally rewarding as a result of their efforts. My support team also helped to remind and distract me on occasion to something other than work. There is great truth in the old adage, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
Maintenance of a leader’s body is crucial to endurance, longevity, and engagement. Physical fitness is a reality at some level that will ensure strength, mobility, and flexibility across your career and lifespan. I realized at a young age that running was my physical ability that would help me endure whatever came my way. I still run most days and even race a 5K once and a while; some type of competition is good for you across your lifespan. Awareness to the nutrition needs of your body is critical as is the rest needed to maintain optimum leadership performance.
It’s not so important who starts the game but who finishes it.” John Wooden
Maintaining resilience as a leader means a lot of things. It requires each of us to have a comprehensive approach that focuses on the mind, spirit, and body working together. I have laid out some basic ideas that we must consider across our leadership experience and also our lifespan. Leadership is tough duty!
Are you resilient and role-modeling resilience for those you lead and serve? Are you ensuring that you can lead effectively for the duration of this great leadership journey that you have embarked on?