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Resilient Leadership: 3 ways to replenish your stores of resilience


If resilience was touted as an important leadership characteristic before Covid, it will certainly go down as one of the most essential skills of leaders as we live through and emerge from the pandemic.

Why? Because for the first time in the history of our world, every one of our 7.8 billion global neighbors is living through a collective time of grief and disruption – the loss of community, loved ones, jobs, titles, income, autonomy, health and more.

And that means our normal stores of resilience are depleted. Even if we’re not front-line or essential workers, each of us can experience what’s called “vicarious trauma” simply from hearing through the media about traumatic events, unspeakable hardships, and the daily diet of distressing statistics. In fact, constant exposure to this burden of vicarious trauma is known to cause fear, feelings of hopelessness, an inability to cope, and high levels of anxiety.

Self-leadership in a time like this is essential – for coping with the uncertainty, and for having the physical and emotional stamina to lead others through this time. Here are 3 things you can do now to build your stores of resilience.

1. Get comfortable with uncertainty and volatility

Uncertainty and volatility will be with us for months – maybe years – to come. If you spend your energy resisting or fighting the uncertainty, you’ll be pouring your stamina away. Adaptive leaders recognize there are no playbooks or rules for leading in this time. No MBA or leadership course can teach you the hard skills of leading through a pandemic, and as the crisis continues, getting comfortable with uncertainty is going to help you retain your stores of resilience.

2. Limit your exposure to bad news

You’re already dealing with tough challenges in your own life and work. And while it’s essential to know what’s going on in the world, limit your news review to once or twice daily unless there’s a compelling reason why you need to follow the headlines more closely. How much do you really need to know? For empathetic people, the constant diet of other people’s tragedies and hardships grinds away at our own resilience and limits our ability to be present to the people or circumstances that really need our support.

3. Keep your fuel tank full

You can’t be the fueling station for your team or family members if your own tank isn’t regularly refilled. Over the course of his complex career, retired American general, Colin Powell famously maintained his hobby tinkering on old Volvos. While his days were filled with military and political strategy, he gave his mind a rest and kept the hobby going in his spare time. What’s your passion? Cooking? Journaling? Jogging? Building Lego with your kids? Resist the temptation to give up life-giving passions that may feel optional or self-indulgent. They’re actually essential aspects of self-care. Author Parker Palmer says it wisely: "Self-care is never a selfish act - it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others."

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