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How Leaders Embrace Resilience During Tough Times

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The global business environment is highly dynamic and challenging. The competition is cut-throat. You must run a little faster than others to keep your lead. It is tough to predict the very next moment as there is uncertainty everywhere and there is no assurance that the decisions that you make will definitely deliver fruitful outcomes. The leaders and CEOs find it challenging to beat the competition. They find it more challenging to predict the developments in technology. Some companies have been defunct while some have become bankrupt. There is an urgent need to build resilient organizations globally to beat the competition. It calls for building resilient teams and leaders who can build resilient organizations that can beat the competition and ensure sustainability. 

Resilient leaders

The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is resilience. Successful people know how to bounce back from adversities, disappointments and failures while unsuccessful people brood over constantly about their failures and hesitate to explore and experiment further.   

Resilient leaders make things fall into place, unlike other leaders. They don’t blame their circumstances. Instead, they take responsibility and invest their efforts to influence situations and outcomes. They don’t brood over their past mistakes. Instead, they explore ideas to overcome their challenges. They are part of the solutions, not problems. 

When the sailing is smooth any Tom, Dick, and Harry can become a hero or star or leader.  However, when the sailing becomes rough, it calls for resilient leaders who can take on the challenges and changes squarely. The real leaders emerge when the ship is sailing through the storm to take it to the shore smoothly. Tough times call for resilient leaders who have the guts and vision to handle the crisis.  Storms bring out the real stars, heroes, and leaders. Problems are blessings in disguise for those leaders who have a huge potential.

Alan Mulally, Lou Gerstner, and Carleton (Carly) S. Fiorina are resilient leaders who turned around their organizations successfully. Alan Mulally led Ford from the brink of bankruptcy to profitability, respectability, and stability. It is an amazing turnaround story in the corporate world which is a blend of both financial belt-tightening and a cultural change in the auto industry. It serves as an ideal case study for management graduates globally. Lou Gerstner is a resilient leader who successfully turned around IBM through focused effort and disciplined execution. Carly Fiorina shattered the glass ceiling by standing up against male-dominated leaders. She was the first woman to lead a Fortune 20 company—Hewlett-Packard (HP). 

“Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.” ― Gever Tulley

Embrace change 

When you look at Eastman Kodak which was a leader for many years filed for bankruptcy in 2012, and Blockbuster Video became defunct in 2013. Similarly, Borders which was one of the largest book retailers in the US became defunct in 2011. Why did these companies which had great brands initially fail finally? It is because they failed to adapt to change. 

The leaders must not only embrace change but also lead to change during normal and turbulent times. Being prepared to change mentally helps them avert turbulent times within the organization. Hence, leaders must have organizational agility to achieve organizational adaptability. When we look at leaders who led change successfully through organizational adaptability, Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric comes to our mind. Jack Welch was a trendsetter. He led by example. He was straightforward and a master strategist who believed in a brutal execution. 

Leaders must adopt tools and techniques to adapt to change. Here is a blueprint to embrace change effectively. Keep your vision right and straight, and articulate it effectively. Create organizational culture conducive to bringing out change. Communicate clearly about the need to change. Enlighten people about the implications of the status quo.  Show them benefits once the change is implemented.  Coordinate all stakeholders effectively. Remove the roadblocks by allaying their apprehensions. Show them small gains to ensure that the entire change takes place smoothly without any resistance.

Manage uncertainty

There is all-around uncertainty everywhere in the world. Whether it is for leaders or followers, employers or employees, everybody is subjected to uncertainty. People must learn to cultivate an attitude to understand and adjust to uncertainty. They must cultivate such a mindset and explore accordingly to survive in the world.   

Whenever we confront uncertainty, we must identify the bottlenecks that create challenges for us.  We must look at the impact of damage on the strategies and tasks that we do. We need to view the root of the issues and work feasible solutions to keep ourselves aligned with our goals. We must take remedial action and monitor closely and keenly whether we succeeded in containing the root of the uncertainty.

Convert threats into opportunities

Resilient leaders are very much aware of external disturbances and prepare mentally to come out with flying colors.  If Colonel Sanders gave up, we would not have had KFC, if Thomas Edison gave up, we would not have had an electric bulb, if Albert Einstein gave up, we would not have known the theory of relativity.  Hence, all these legends persisted in their efforts throughout their convictions by managing external disturbances.  They converted their threats into opportunities and, finally, made everything possible. Resilient leaders don’t blame others.  They take responsibility for their actions and raise the hopes of others.  

The theoretical knowledge equips you with some ideas and insights on resilience while the practical knowledge equips you with time-tested tools and techniques to acquire resilience. Hence, both theoretical and practical knowledge is essential to building your resilience. When you put into a percentage, it is more of a practical experience that leads to building resilience. To conclude, to survive and succeed in the 21st century whether you are an individual or an institution, you must be resilient to build resilient organizations to ensure organizational excellence and effectiveness. 

Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D. is the Father of “Soft Leadership” and the Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. He is an International Leadership Guru with forty years of experience and the author of fifty books including the award-winning ‘See the Light in You’ URL: https://www.amazon.com/See-Light-You-Spiritual-Mindfulness/dp/1949003132. He is a C-Suite advisor and global keynote speaker. He brings a strategic eye and long-range vision given his multifaceted professional experience including military, teaching, training, research, consultancy, and philosophy. He is passionate about serving and making a difference in the lives of others. He is a regular contributor to Entrepreneur Magazine. He trains a new generation of leaders through leadership education and publications.

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