Leadership and Resilience

“If you want to be resilient, find the right amount of generosity and authenticity and grit.” 

This from Adam Grant, author of Give and Take and a featured Paradigm Smasher on this site, in a commencement speech he gave this year. When Adam gave this speech in May 2017, he and Sheryl Sandberg had just published Option B, a book centred around resilience. In Give and Take, he talks about how the most successful leaders are “Givers”, and at the same time they set boundaries, they find a balance.

It is key to recognise that, despite the typical desire of “Givers” to be loved, it is dangerous and ineffective if they (ok “we”, I hold a mirror up to myself on this one!) allow themselves to become a “doormat”, to focus too much on pleasing people by giving without consideration for self. Giving without limits can create burnout, or, to be clearer and more direct, mental distress and mental health trauma.

We can’t lead when we are not “on our game”. As a coach for many years, I work with many leaders who are “Givers”, and too often they give too much without self-knowledge and without self-awareness of their emotional state. I have, countless times, used:

“put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you help others”

It is vital as a leader to set boundaries, to recognise your role is to give with the best interests of your people and organisation in mind, to be respected, not always to be loved. As Adam Grant says, find the right amount, find that balance.

So, how to do this? A key element often lost by leaders is to focus on their own self-care. Successful leaders recognise the power of their own energy and energetic presence. So much of Leadership is about BEING, not DOING, and in order to manage our own energy as leaders, it is key to find the balance that Adam Grant espouses, as well as having both awareness and tools for resilience.

I’m deep into the study of resilience right now, diving into Tao of Seneca from Tim Ferris, who as someone with bipolar disorder has had easily over 100 depressive episodes in his life. Tim has found the study and practice of stoicism profoundly valuable for him in his life.  I’ll write about this soon.

For now, I go back to my writings on this site around silence., presence, mindfulness, all of which are also areas where leaders can focus to find their own self-knowledge, self-awareness and then take their own practices for resilience and other attributes key to successful leadership.

I’ll highlight one past article, “What happens when we find silence“, within which is a video and thoughts on Marina Abramovic and her quite stunning presence.

I will also write soon about a remarkable documentary called INNSAE (available on Netflix), one Icelandic meaning of this word being “to see from the inside out”. Among the many gifts of this film are that Marina Abramovic was extensively interviewed.

She, to me, has gained a level of presence gained through access to parts of the mind achieved only by a very few, and so much of that comes from her focus on challenging herself and her resilience over the decades of her astonishing work.


Also published on Medium.

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