Resilience - Leadership

Resilience – Leadership

Last week I introduced you to the twenty superpowers that leaders need to possess to create an environment for resilience. This is an environment in which individuals and teams are resilient in the face of constant change.

Individual resilience is critical when the world around us is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Resilience means we can adapt to difficult situations and not just survive but thrive. Unless we do, the stress will overwhelm us, and we will suffer physically and mentally.

This week we will explore one of those twenty superpowers.

Superpower – The Leader

Building, maintaining and sustaining a resilient workforce requires leaders, not managers.

Warren Bennis, one of the pioneers of contemporary leadership studies, is quoted as saying, “The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.”

No more command and control.

Command and control and authoritarian direction have no place in the formation of resilient individuals.

True leaders surrender control.

Leaders who ‘get out of the way’ provide individuals with autonomy, delegate decision-making and allow them to experiment and take calculated and intelligent risks. If it fails, so be it, learn from it and move on.

Great leaders inspire and then get out of the way.

Adaptation, experimentation, creativity, innovation and questioning will be stifled, if not exterminated, in a command and control environment.

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A leader who controls everything and has no tolerance for risk-taking not only demotivates employees but also stifles innovation and experimentation. Controlling leaders create bottlenecks rather than increase throughput. They signal a lack of trust and confidence.

The manager relies on control. The leader inspires trust. There is an argument that leaders both lead and manage. They generate innovation, creativity and experimentation as leaders and then they execute as managers. The crux is that it is the leadership qualities and capabilities that will establish and preserve resilience, not those of a manager.

Guard rails

Many people believe that if they let go of control and ‘get out of the way’ there will be anarchy.

This is not the case.

Leaders provide individuals with guardrails or principles by which they operate.

Guardrails on the road stop drivers ending up in dangerous areas and they are often placed in the most problematic areas where it is easy to do the wrong thing.

Just as guardrails help make drivers safe and keep them on the road, they can also do that for an organization.

We can give everyone the autonomy, the ability to self-manage and make decisions. But sometimes, individuals need guardrails to make sure their efforts are aligned with the organizational needs and do not put the organization at damaging risk. This also gives them comfort and confidence to step out of their comfort zone and have a go.

In addition to organizational-wide guardrails, teams may have additional guardrails that are specific to their function and the work they carry out.

Guardrails are the guidelines within which employees can act autonomously. They enable employees to make good decisions. Unlike rules, which are constrictive, guardrails allow employees to use their intuition, rational thinking and their unique contextual understanding of the situation. Focus on the guardrails (principles), not policies.

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The Leader provides clarity of purpose. When leaders are clear about what needs to be achieved and why, everyone is on the same page. Everyone is working toward the same goal.

If leaders are not clear, as directions shift, plans change, and teams grow – teams will become confused, lose sense of direction, become distracted and unproductive.

It results in chaos. Leadership is about keeping teams away from chaos and moving towards a place of clarity.

Chaos results in unmotivated and disengaged individuals with low resilience.

Clarity and shared sense of purpose is motivational and engages individuals in achievement of a common goal.

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