The Coaching Leader cultivates resilience


We all have tough weeks. The weekend comes and we’re tired. For many leaders every day is tough. The pace, complexity, and responsibility is relentless. (It’s not just leaders. Family, work, interests, community commitments. It’s you, too, I bet.) But you signed up for it, and you keep at it. However, it takes a toll on our ability to perform. And if you want to have impact as a leader (or a mom or a manager, or [you]), you need to be able to perform. We need to bounce back, as quickly as possible.

Where does bounce-back come from?

Since the 1970s, researchers have been investigating a set of abilities that make up resilience. They make it possible for people to “adapt to stress and adversity.” And when it’s in play, it not only helps people make it through, but come out the other side “strengthened and more resourceful.”

I have a friend that I admire who faces difficulty head on. She can become wrought up in the midst of adversity. It takes a toll on her. Still, she comes back to an optimistic point of view afterward. Every time. She seems to be naturally resilient.

Some research suggests that aspects of resilience are inherited. But it is not a fixed trait available to extraordinary people. It’s normal and can be developed. When we feel “stressed” what we want most is a break. But the resilience I’m talking about can be cultivated so that we feel a little less stressed tomorrow and in following days. And it’s effect is cumulative.

The result of developing resilience is not an unconditional positive attitude. Pollyannas are just ignoring the facts. But cultivating resilience – the process – does help us recognize our response to adversity, offer alternatives, and help ensure that we are strengthened and more resourceful afterward.

The Coaching Leader mindset steadies you for adversity

Leaders who think they control things are asking for a lot of adversity. The Coaching Leader is learning that most of the time she can’t control circumstances or people. Instead, we’re sizing things up, finding opportunity, making smart moves, shaping the conditions to our advantage. The time to use the hammer of power is when nothing else works. And watch carefully for the indirect and unintended consequences. The Coaching Leader is working with markets, opportunity, change, and people to channel them where they can do the most good. This mindset also changes the way they look at obstacles and adversity.

The Coaching Leader Mindset

There’s a very old saying that comes from the earliest Christian ascetics who lived alone in the desert: “If you always bend the bow, it will break.” Even they knew how to take a breather.

Reflect on the beliefs and assumptions you hold about resilience and the resources that help you bounce back from challenges.

  • To have resources for the work and for those who depend on me, I regularly refresh and restore myself.
  • I know what activities, people, and ways of spending time energize me. I’m not looking for a just break or relief. I’m recharging.
  • I regularly remind myself that “now” and “yesterday” are not the only way to answer the question When should I do this? (or When do you want this done?)
  • I know that I’m not just the outcomes I produce. I’m in a process, part of a process, and I help others see the value of the process we’re part of.
  • I recognize others’ need to refresh themselves.

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