This blog is an excerpt from an article published in Integral Leadership Review, Building Authentic Leadership by Innovating How You Lead. It is the companion to a Voice Ameria interview with Kate Terrell, Five Lessons in Resilience, Overcoming Life’s Challenges.
We define resilience as the ability to remain flexible and focused in the face of ongoing change. To be an authentic leader, we need to attend to four key elements: our physical wellbeing, our thinking, our emotional intelligence and sense of purpose, and our connection to people who support us. We must be honest with ourselves and others about what allows us to be resilient.
The other day Maureen met with a client who, for the first time in his life, is struggling with health challenges. This man works for a large national nonprofit where leaders pride themselves on their stamina, persistence, and always achieving results beyond what others could deliver—which may be part of the root of the problem. At forty-one years old, he had been blessed with great health until back problems forced him to take a leave of absence from work. He was given surgical and non-surgical treatment options to address his back condition. The non-surgical choices involved managing his stress and lifestyle as well as a daily routine of exercise and stretching. While the non-surgical option may sound easier than the surgical option, his underlying dilemma is facing the fact that he cannot live up to his own expectations of himself. He is young and suffering stress-related physical problems that, if he does not get under control, will likely result in chronic pain for years to come.
Now he must rethink who he can authentically be and face the reality of his physical limitations. Although we all will face this at some point in our lives and careers, most of us never really think about it until a dramatic event forces us to reassess the choices we make and how we’re living.
When we read about authentic leadership it seems so simple: be true to yourself. For this client, a primary condition of his authenticity is facing his physical limitations and being authentic with others about what he can and is willing to do to balance his work schedule with his personal health needs.
In coming to terms with his humanness, the client needs to figure out what it even means to be true to himself. Does he retain his stressful job in a field he loves, implementing a mission which he believes is his life’s work? What other avenue does he have to pursue his passion and make an impact on the world?
How you can put resilience to work for you to become more authentic?
Here are seven questions to consider as indicators of your resilience as a leader:
- Am I taking the actions I need to take to remain physically healthy over the longer term?
- Do I manage my thinking throughout the day, every day (minimize negative self-talk; be gentle and kind in how I think about myself; express gratitude regularly; have reasonable expectations of myself and others, etc.)?
- Do I demonstrate strong emotional self-awareness and self-management?
- Do I have a sense of life purpose that inspires me daily and helps keep the less important annoyances in perspective?
- Do I have a spiritual practice that supports my well-being?
- Do I have a support system that supports and encourages me during good times and bad?
- Do I use effective communication skills to manage stress?
If you’ve answered no to any of the six questions on the list consider: what changes you can you make in the short term to authentically and honestly commit to and move toward greater resilience?
As a resilient leader, you are more able to respond to the ongoing challenges of your role with clear thinking and presence. This, in turn, allows you to continue to be authentic with yourself and others around you. It also allows you to promote resilience in your workgroup so you can ensure others are also able to perform at their highest capacity.
Authenticity is the alignment of head, mouth, heart, and feet—thinking, saying, feeling, and doing the same thing—consistently. This builds trust, and followers love leaders they can trust.
— Lance Secretan
To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.
About the Author
Maureen Metcalf, CEO of Metcalf & Associates is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, coach, and consultant.