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Refueling Your Resilience As A Leader

As leaders, COVID has challenged our resilience by isolating us, threatening our health, disrupting our habits, and challenging our beliefs. Now more than ever, purpose and values matter.

Article by Robert A. McDonald June 4, 2021 //   5 minute read

As leaders, COVID has challenged our resilience by isolating us, threatening our health, disrupting our habits, and challenging our beliefs. The pandemic has created a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world (VUCA). Now more than ever, purpose and values matter.

Living a life of purpose leads to a more meaningful life than meandering without direction. Purpose is the antidote to VUCA and is considered the “what”. It is the grounding principal when tackling this COVID world.

Values are the how.  Living a life and leading by demonstrating immutable values provides foundation.

So, how do we continue leadership with purpose and value when our world is in VUCA?

  1. Choose your purpose and values and live your life with self-discipline centered on that. Seek homogeneity.  Don’t compartmentalize.  Be the consistent person based on your purpose and values at all times and in all situations.  Compartmentalization leads to hypocrisy.  Hypocrisy is the antithesis to authentic leadership.  Purpose and values when followed with self-discipline lead to authenticity, which leads to intimate relationships, which leads to trust.
  2. Care for your physical self. Show respect for the body you have been given.  Exercise regularly.  Get sleep.  Be jealous of your time.  Create a healthy habit of caring for your physical self.
  3. Care for your mental self. While physical injuries are easy to diagnose and treat, mental injuries are more difficult.  Expunge the stigma associated with mental health.  Set the example in your organization or family to be open about mental health. When needed seek help.  Seek counsel, mentorship, a “battle buddy.” Call someone who you’ve not talked to recently.  Nurture relationships deliberately. As humans we were meant to live in community not in isolation.
  4. Care for your spiritual self. It is not an accident the military and the Department of Veteran Affairs have a chaplaincy corps.  Spiritual health is as critical as physical and mental health. 
  5. Be deliberate about improvement. You may remember Stephen Covey’s story about two men sawing wood.  Both worked furiously.  Both stacks of wood piled up.  But one stack was growing higher than the other.  Ironically, that individual sat down occasionally, while the other man continued sawing furiously.  When Stephen asked why, he discovered that the man who sat down was sharpening his saw.  Sharpen your saw.  What book are you reading?  What are you doing to make yourself more valuable to your family and your organization?  Baby steps are fine.  But get started now.  Develop a new habit. 

We are here to help each other, and we must use and lean on our colleagues and community. Think about “The Star Thrower” by Loren Eisely:

Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing.  He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work.  Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching.  As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.  The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning!  May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.  The tide has washed them up onto the beach, and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied.  “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean.  Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference for that one!”

As leaders, let’s pledge today to make a difference in the life of at least one person each day by being resilient.