Tag Archives: resilience

Leadership and Human Nature

flowerIn October, 2012, Superstorm Sandy was top of mind for a great many.  Not only was it a catastrophic storm for thousands of  people, it served to remind us, once again, that disasters pull people together like no other phenomena.

I say this, not to be flippant, but to call to attention how the best in good people seems to rise to the top whenever the worst things happen. It’s almost like our greater brain kicks in and we gain full access to whatever stores of resilience, resourcefulness and generosity we have inside us.

It would be great if we could bottle it, wouldn’t it?  Perhaps then we could take a spoonful whenever we begin to forget what’s important.  After all, in life or death situations, things have a way of shifting our view, away from politics, bottom lines and winning at all cost toward something decidedly more genuine, more human.

So what is it we forget about people when we are not in crisis that we would do well to remember and respect? And, how would doing this serve to improve our leadership efforts?

The answers to those questions require more than this one person’s scrutiny but when I think about it, I’m reminded of a few truths about being human, like:

Necessity is the mother of invention ~ When we feel an urgent need, we are driven to seek a solution that will fill it.  That necessity drives change.  For most of us, before we are willing to change, we have to both see and feel the need for it. The role of leadership in this is both to help people feel the urgency and to believe that the pain of change will be worthwhile in the end.

People are more resilient than they are typically given credit for ~ While, firm structures are important during times of uncertainty, so is faith in peoples’ ability to adapt and contribute to bringing about a new order of things. In leadership is it wise to remember that in general, human beings are not that fragile.   We fare much better when we are regarded, not as part of the problem but as part of the solution.

Caring for and about others is in our DNA ~ In crisis, our list of priorities tends to look different from the list we might draw up in more stable times.  Specifically, the safety and welfare of people always seem to come first when things are truly scary.  Everything else falls away.  Regrettably, when we are not in crisis, it is easy to forget that and shift focus to other, more financially or politically rewarding pursuits.  I suspect though that when leaders actively care for the people who follow them, the financial and political aspects of organizational life don’t suffer at all.

When we know the score we have it in us to be patient~ With a few exceptions, those who have suffered, and continue to suffer hardship from this latest blast from Mother Nature seem to have borne the discomfort and inconvenience of power outage and fuel shortage with stoic resignation.  People expected to lose electrical power.  Likely too, they expected to have to line up for batteries, gas and other supplies.   I  think that people who are not in crisis also appreciate it (and are much more patient with themselves and each other) when they know what to expect.  Patience allows for clear thinking. Clear thinking allows for greater productivity and problem solving. From that perspective, keeping people informed pays off.

That’s what I think anyway.  What do you think?

Note: This article was originally posted in 2012

 

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Filed under Change Management, Leadership, Leadership Development, organizational culture, Organizational Effectiveness

A Look at Leadership and Human Nature

This week Superstorm Sandy will be top of mind for a great many of us.  Not only was it a catastrophic storm for so many people, it served to remind us, once again, that disasters pull people together like no other phenomena.

I say this, not to be flippant but to call to attention how the best in good people seems to rise to the top whenever the worst things happen. It’s almost like our greater brain kicks in and we gain full access to whatever stores of resilience, resourcefulness and generosity we have inside us.

It would be great if we could bottle it, wouldn’t it?  Perhaps then we could take a spoonful whenever we begin to forget what’s important.  After all, in life or death situations, things have a way of shifting our view, away from politics, bottom lines and winning at all cost toward something decidedly more genuine, more human.

So what is it we forget about people when we are not in crisis that we would do well to remember and respect? And, how would doing this serve to improve our leadership efforts?

The answers to those questions require more than this one person’s scrutiny but when I think about it, I’m reminded of a few truths about being human, like:

Necessity is the mother of invention ~ When we feel an urgent need, we are driven to seek a solution that will fill it.  That necessity drives change.  For most of us, before we are willing to change, we have to both see and feel the need for it. The role of leadership in this is both to help people feel the urgency and to believe that the pain of change will be worthwhile in the end.

People are more resilient than they are typically given credit for ~ While, firm structures are important during times of uncertainty, so is faith in peoples’ ability to adapt and contribute to bringing about a new order of things. In leadership is it wise to remember that in general, human beings are not that fragile.   We fare much better when we are regarded, not as part of the problem but as part of the solution.

Caring for and about others is in our DNA ~ In crisis, our list of priorities tends to look different from the list we might draw up in more stable times.  Specifically, the safety and welfare of people always seem to come first when things are truly scary.  Everything else falls away.  Regrettably, when we are not in crisis, it is easy to forget that and shift focus to other, more financially or politically rewarding pursuits.  I suspect though that when leaders actively care for the people who follow them, the financial and political aspects of organizational life don’t suffer at all.

When we know the score we have it in us to be patient~ With a few exceptions, those who have suffered, and continue to suffer hardship from this latest blast from Mother Nature seem to have borne the discomfort and inconvenience of power outage and fuel shortage with stoic resignation.  People expected to lose electrical power.  Likely too, they expected to have to line up for batteries, gas and other supplies.   I  think that people who are not in crisis also appreciate it (and are much more patient with themselves and each other) when they know what to expect.  Patience allows for clear thinking. Clear thinking allows for greater productivity and problem solving. From that perspective, keeping people informed pays off.

That’s what I think anyway.  What do you think?

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Filed under Change Management, Leadership, Leadership Development, Organizational Effectiveness

Going First

Photo by Erik Johansson

Leadership is a very big and often complex topic.  In very simple (possibly even simplistic) terms though, it’s about going first.  It’s also about having a clear sense of purpose and about engaging others in believing that the purpose is something worth pursuing; something that can be trusted; something that will make things better, not worse.

That’s the hard part.  Going first puts us under harsh scrutiny, creates (often vehement) opposition and sometimes gives rise to sabotage.  It also represents change and while we often talk about embracing it, for many of us, embracing change is sort of like, as children, having to give a distant and unfamiliar relative a hug.   You know you should, but you don’t really want to.

Going first asks a lot of us.

It asks us to be bold without being obnoxious  ~ willing to risk rejection, to bend rules, to make new ones, to explore uncharted waters but to resist the belief that only our own views count.

It asks us to be resilient without being stubborn ~ to learn to cope with stress, disappointment, criticism, to bounce back from adversity; but to maintain a level of vulnerability that allows us to express our emotions; show our humanity and accept the things we need to see about ourselves.

It asks us to be tolerant without being a pushover ~ to listen to, and learn from, opposing views but to challenge those that work against our purpose or values.

It asks us to be tough without being callous ~ to hold ourselves and others accountable for the decisions we make but to do so in a way that creates lessons rather than metes out punishment.

It is not an easy road but many choose it because they have a dream; because they see something and want something that the rest of us have yet to consider.  And, they want to help us get there.

So, if you are one of those people, the question is how do you blaze your trail and convince others that it is a road worth following?  Yes, I know.  It’s a very big question.  But, I have some ideas and also some very interesting places to point you to, so here goes:

Keep the Fundamentals of Being a Good Boss in Mind

There is a plethora of Leadership blogs out there.  Frankly, It is hard to determine which ones are going to do the trick for you.  But, here are a couple of places to start.  First, Wally Bock’s Three Star Leadership Blog is an excellent place to go for reference material and practical down to earth advice about how to be a good boss.  Similarly, Art Petty’s Blog, Management Excellence is equally thought provoking and informative.

The point is, there are a lot of fancy and complicated views about what it means to go first and bring others happily along with you.  Wally and Art will help you to get at what’s most important.

Be Clear about your Vision and Purpose

If you are even the least bit fuzzy about where you want to go, going first can turn into going alone.  This is where bringing clarity to your vision and purpose is critical.  To help you do that, I note that Jesse Lyn Stoner and Ken Blanchard have released a second edition of their book, Full Steam Ahead ~ Unleash the Power of Vision in Your Work and Your Life.  This book is written for those of us who enjoy a good story (and who doesn’t?).  It examines the notion of creating a vision, (which can have rather ethereal connotations) and brings it to life in a very real way.

Develop a Thick Skin

In order to be bold and to bounce back from the inevitable setbacks, going first often creates, we have to learn to take disappointment in stride and to hold ourselves in high enough esteem to weather undue or unfair criticism.

Anne Perschel of Germaine Consulting, recently wrote a blog post entitled,  Hold the Botox – Thicken Your Skin While its message is pointed at women, I think both women and men could learn something about developing resilience from Anne.

As well, I read another post from Jane Perdue in her blog Get Your Big On called, “When Pretty isn’t a Compliment ~ A story of Resilience This story illustrates how easy it is for the balloon of self-confidence to suffer from even the slightest pinprick if we are not vigilant.

And finally:

Learn to Coach …and Get a Coach

If you want to go first with purpose it is always a good idea to find someone you can trust to help you get there and hold you accountable for the things you want and the things you say you are going to do.  A coach can help you with that.  As well, if you want others to follow your lead, learning to be a good coach is a must, especially if you want them to follow you happily.

One of my favourite coaches is Mary Jo Asmus.  Mary Jo writes an excellent blog and one that is on my regular reading list.  One of her most recent posts is entitled, “When You Coach, This is What happens” You will not only get some insights about how to coach but perhaps also see the benefits of having a coach in your own life.

Of course there is much more to learn about going first.  In fact it is a never-ending pursuit.  Hopefully, this has provided something of a start to your own journey, one that will gather many followers.  And, there is a lot I have left out.

What would you add?


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Filed under Change Management, Establishing Direction, Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Vision, Learning, motivating & Inspiring, Uncategorized