Resiliency (Leadership Essentials)

New Zealand PGA Championship - Day TwoThe best golfers in the world have one thing in common… they quickly recover from a poor shot. The same could be said of other athletes, they recover quickly. I heard one person put it this way, “a quick forgeter…”

Resilient people develop a mental capacity that allows them to adapt with ease during adversity. Like bamboo, they bend but rarely break.

In life in general, but especially as a leader, we will face setbacks and obstacles. We will make mistakes. We will have those moments that we regret and wish we could take back.

My wife has a moment, she wishes I could take back almost as much as I do. A few years ago I was preaching and in the middle of trying to make a joke, I stated that if you haven’t been to our house, then it is probably because my wife doesn’t like you. Well, most of the congregation had never been to our house. As I am saying the words, I see my wife’s face and realize that what seemed funny in my head, really was not. At that moment, I wanted one of two things: to jump off the platform and grab the words out of the air before they made it to people’s ears or to run away. This was near the beginning of the sermon and I had much more to say. Instead, all I could do was apologize and state that did not come out the way I meant it and move on. I had to recover quickly and get to the meat of the day and what mattered. If I let it, that moment could have derailed the whole day for me.

That is just a small example. There are much bigger ones in life that we could easily point to where something happens and we have to choose to recover or fold under the pressure of the moment.

A story is told of a young girl who made a terrible mistake and became pregnant at 13. Her son was born with cerebral palsy. This would be enough to devastate most people and understandably so. Instead, Marilyn DeAlba did something way beyond her age and circumstance. She cares for her son and finished High School, holds a job, and scholarships to attend college which she started at age 17. (Full story here)

Amazing. She recovered from something that would cause many to spiral out of control.

At tomes, we have to recover from something that was not the result of our own choices or actions, but that of someone else.

Leaders regularly have circumstances where someone makes a decision that affects them or their organization. Someone posts a negative comment online. Rumors float around. Betrayal. Theft. Mutiny. Key member leaves. The list goes on.

Other times things happen that are out of anyone’s control. Storms. Disasters. Something breaks. Equipment wears out. Accidents occur.

What we choose in those moments is critical, no matter whether the circumstance is the result of a decision, a mistake, an unfortunate occurrance, or the actions of another. It is our choice how we recover from it. It is up to us what happens next. We can wallow in the pity and sorrow and devastation of the moment and see it bring everything else around us down, or we can quickly “forget” and move on.

I don’t mean forget it happened, but forget the emotion and pressure of it. Learn from it if there is a lesson to learn, of course, but sometimes the lesson is to be learned later when we can adequately reflect and process. Often in the moment, we need to focus on next, not what just was last.

To be effective as a leader, we can’t let the lows keep us from the highs. We can’t let a set back keep us from moving forward strong. Like a good basketball, we have to keep bouncing back. Keep going.

The most resilient people, are often the ones who have the greatest longevity and impact in their area/field. There is much to be said for doing something for an extended period of time. It bring credibility and influence when it is done well with consistency. That is how legacies are formed.

Resiliency, the ability to bounce back quickly from disappointment is an essential of leadership.