How To Become a Resilient Leader


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In fact mental and physical wellbeing is the biggest factor in building resilience.  If you aren’t in good shape, if your body and mind can’t react when you call on it to respond to difficult or stressful situations – well, then you’re way behind the wave.  And it’s almost impossible to dig out, because you don’t have any reserves to call on.

Talking about resilience is all well and good, but if you don’t have the mental and physical muscle to stand yourself up, you’ll be running on fumes.  And running on fumes isn’t part of being resilient.

I’ll tell you, when I’m going through a period of not taking care of myself, not eating right or getting enough sleep – well, if I have a bad day in the middle of all that, it feels like it’s a monster trying to devour me.  I feel like there is no way out, why is this happening to me, why is everyone making everything so difficult, why aren’t things going my way.

On the other hand, if I’m rested and not eating fried foods all day, every day – well then when something comes along that isn’t in the “oh, isn’t that wonderful” column – I’m much better suited to take it on and figure out a solution.  It’s amazing – I bet you’ve had that experience too – you can really feel the difference.  Things just don’t get quite so dark quite so fast.  And you have more mental room to think about a path forward

So, what is resilience anyway.  Well, a resilient leader doesn’t get derailed and exhausted when they face a setback.  When a business fire pops up, does it make you falling-down tired, like you can’t take on another thing?  Does it pull you completely off track from what you were doing, or going to do.  Do you find yourself consumed by the issue, with no brainpower to get on to, or on with, other things that need your attention?  Well, that’s the opposite of resilience.

When you can bounce back after adversity, adapt to change and make friends with ambiguity – that’s resilience.

When you find yourself in the middle of what may feel like chaos, yet you can be decisive and maintain a growth mindset – that’s resilience.

So, why is resilience so important for a leader.  Well, first off because building a business is hard.  And consistently growing a business is even harder.  And being a great leader is hardest of all.  Oh, I don’t mean you can’t do it – in fact, I believe the exact opposite – you absolutely have everything you need to be a great leader.  But it does take hard work, and you have to pay attention – all the time.  There isn’t anything set it and forget it about leadership.  Things are constantly in flux, and you have to flow with them.

…Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.

And, you always have to keep in mind that you’re modeling behavior for your team.  So isn’t it important to model the behavior you want.

And finally, remember the job of an entrepreneur is to find solutions.  Solutions to the client’s problems, solutions to growing the business, solutions to developing your team.  And to find the right solutions, you need a clear, positive, focused mind.  You can’t be bogged down with feeling like a victim, as if everything is happening to you.  Instead, you need to unpack that issue so you can attack it in bite sized pieces.

OK, that was a lot of what you need to do to show resilience.  But how do you build that muscle, how do you become resilient?  Well, it might be slightly different for each person – after all we aren’t all the same, and we aren’t all motivated by the same things.  But here are some key resilience building blocks:

Develop and maintain strong relationships.  I can’t overstate how important it is to have a crew in your corner.  You need friends.  You need good, solid relationships.  People you can trust, talk to, and just be yourself with.  And you need people who can give you sound advice, both business and personal.  And here’s a secret – they probably aren’t the same person. Different people bring different gifts to the relationship – the same way you do.  So go crazy, have a variety of friends.  Have personal friends, have business friends, have silly friends, have scholarly friends – you know the saying, you can’t have too many friends.

And most importantly, particularly for entrepreneurs – do everything you can to maintain those relationships.  Listen, we’ve all been there.  We’re head down, working as hard as we can, no room or time to “quote unquote”, play.  We have to work, work, work.  Well I’ll tell you something – humans aren’t built that way.  Oh sure, some people are introverts and some are extroverts and some are other-troverts.  But no matter, most humans -at some time, on some level – need other humans.  I know I do.

There have been large swaths of time when I’ve let my work consume me, and ended up badly neglecting my relationships.  And I’ll tell you  it was absolutely my loss.  When I finally felt ready to reach out, they weren’t as available.  And even more than that – once I got things back on track (after a LOT of apologizing), I realized I had forgotten how much those relationships actually mean to me.  Turns out, strong relationships are my #1 building block for resilience.

After connecting, I feel stronger, better able to weather whatever storm, and it helps me put – and keep – things in perspective. Oh yeah, strong relationships – I highly recommend them.

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Do you have a solid set of core beliefs?  When you have a strong foundation, it helps you see the path forward more easily.  You know the overall direction you’re going, and you can keep a steady course.  The issues that may come up here or there, can be put in perspective.  How or will they impact your overall journey?  In fact, you might determine that they don’t affect your overall goal at all.  And if it turns out they will, well then, what can you do to move them out of the way, or overcome them.

The other thing a solid foundation helps with is keeping a positive outlook.  Again, when you’re looking at the larger journey, when you’re focused on the future, it helps you to not sweat the small stuff.  In fact, it even helps you to identify the small stuff, so you know what not to sweat.

Grow and develop through continuous learning.  Listen, expanding your mind and your knowledge base it a critical part of being a resilient leader – or actually any type of leader at all.  No one knows everything, there is always something new (or new to you).  There are always new developments, a new voice to learn from, a new philosophy or perspective.  Expanding your knowledge horizon can only be a good thing.  Now you’ll have more ideas to put in play, more tools to work with.  And it can spark your creative juices too.  Help you to come up with new and better ways to go after problems.  Even better, more learning might even help you avoid the problems in the first place.

And finally – practice self management.  This takes me back to the original Bruce Lee quote – “Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”  To endure, you’ll need self-control.  Don’t just react all over the place, letting your emotions get the better of you.  Not only does it not help, it can actually make problems worse.  No one wants to follow a leader who’s volatile, and you have no idea who you’ll get when you approach them.  Nope – as my dear mother used to say, handle adversity with grace.  That means take things in stride.  And that means manage yourself.

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