Resilience Is Not Enough

I was recently in a meeting with a client discussing his company’s leadership development needs. This company is undergoing transformational change and its leaders are facing tremendous pressure. My client explained that a key focus for development was to improve the ability of leaders to be resilient. He then asked me for my thoughts. 

I agreed with him. Resilience is important for effective leadership, but alone it isn’t enough. He was surprised by my response. 

When I look around and see the challenges and pressures that leaders face in organizations, it’s easy to understand why resilience would be important. Organizations need leaders who can:

  • demonstrate an ability to recover quickly from setbacks and difficulties,
  • respond to changes in their work environment, and
  • manage their own personal reactions to stress and that of their direct reports. 

That's why resilience is a hot topic right now. Yet traditional views of resilience are a lot like those old inflatable Bozo the Clown Punching Bag toys.  The ones you can punch and punch and they just keep bouncing back up for more. 

I believe many leaders think that this is what resilience is about. You keep taking the punches and your job is to bounce back up for more. The problem with this scenario is that you simply keep returning to your original point. Where little learning takes place and over time you can get worn down by the repeated punches. That’s why I believe resilience will only take leaders so far. 

Leaders need to go beyond resilience. They need a real strong sense of personal resolve -- a sense of firmness of purpose and strong tenacity to lead their organizations.

It’s not just about bouncing back, it’s about learning to “bob and weave” to avoid the punches. It’s about having an unwavering or almost stubborn ability to see the way forward in a different, more sustainable way. Despite all the challenges and obstacles that may come their way, leaders with resolve have a conviction to keep driving and take their performance to new levels. In fact, real resolve also involves learning to get energized by the challenges and hardships. 

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I demonstrating resilience or resolve in my leadership role?
  • Do I feel like a Bozo the Clown Punching Bag some days -- always bouncing back to the same place and not feeling like I’m making any real progress?
  • Do I believe I have the resolve and tenacity to see the way forward in my organization?

Let me know your thoughts.  In my next blog, I’ll discuss strategies to improve resilience and resolve.