Leadership Resilience

“Resilience” is defined as “the toughness it takes to face challenges and setbacks.”Sometimes, toughness can be misinterpreted in leadership as roughness. But, I think as a leader it’s important to maintain a soft heart for people and still be resilient to setbacks and disappointments.

For me, in my roles as a lead pastor of a multi-site church and the chairman of Victory Churches of Canada, I am constantly evaluating myself and ensuring my heart is people first, yet tough enough to lead with resilience. And that means I must keep my eyes on the big picture to be tough enough to make decisions that will benefit the whole while being loving enough to care for the individuals. 

Psychologist Susan Kobasa, says resilient people are people who:

  1. View difficulties as challenges.

  2. View commitment to relationships as vital

  3. View their focus as best spent investing their time and energy on what they can control because that is where they can have the most impact.

Reframe Difficulties as Challenges

Envision the future

Dr. Cal Crow, “Resilient people have a positive image of their future…they envision brighter days”.  It is more than just what we say to ourselves, it is how we see ourselves in the future.

One of the characters in the Bible I draw toughness from when I'm having difficulty viewing my future as bright, besides Jesus of course, is King David. His life is a combination of all types of leadership lessons that have given me guidance no matter what stage of leadership problem I am facing.

Create But Don't Always Share Plan B

Sometimes we bottom out in life because we have poured everything, every hope, every resource into one plan.Dr Andrew Zolli says resilient people usually have a back-up, a plan B. But does a Plan B dilute our commitment to goal setting?

I definitely think that sometimes having a Plan B can dilute our commitment to the goal. So, many times as a leader I will have a plan B, but I won’t necessarily share it with the rest of the team because I don’t want their commitment to be diluted.

Develop Your Self Talk

Often people who are not resilient have self-talk that derails their dreams and their self-image.  Is your toxic vocabulary under cutting your resilience as a leader?

Self-Talk is defined as thinking and Solomon, the wisest leader who ever lived said “as a man thinks in his heart, so he is.” Self talk plays a huge role in a leaders ability to be resilient. For me, I pay attention to my self-talk and if I am feeling overwhelmed or stressed, its one of the first areas I check to see if I’m slipping. I also practice a daily ritual of memorized powerful “I am” statements taken from Scripture that I say over myself. Even as I say them, I can feel confidence building from the inside of me. 

Put Priority on Relationships

Train Others

Leaders must develop toughness to let go of situations where they don’t have control so that they can have impact on situations where they do have control. You have to develop that toughness in a couple of ways.

You have to learn how to train others to do things so that you don’t have to. So that you, as the leader, can focus on what is best for you to focus on. That means trusting others, allowing them to make mistakes and then being tough enough to take the blame for their mistakes, while being loving enough to coach them through it. When you develop a team like this, you will be able to take on more challenges, and if you coach properly, will be committed to the relationships of your team and then will enlarge your ability to control more things.

Embrace Diversity

Dr Andrew Zolli speaks on the need for leaders to lead with flexibility, to develop an agile emotional and mental toughness.To do so, he proposes that we surround ourselves with a diversity of people.

I intentionally try to involve diverse people in every area of leadership I can. I think I learned this growing up by observing the opposite. I grew up in a very conservative and legalistic school that constantly warned me about other types of people — especially charismatics. But then, I met a group of amazing people and discovered that they were charismatics and I learned so much from them, that I became curious about what other types of people I was warned about as a kid, and could learn from. I have come to realize that we all see through a glass dimly and have so much we can learn from other perspectives if we would only be brave enough to cross the divides and connect.

People First

In his book “Resilience”, former Navy Seal Eric Greitens writes to another former Navy Seal:

“our wounds and mistreatments do not wipe out our obligations to serve.Being hurt in life does not diminish our duty to others.We owe to others the labor that can make their life glorious.” 

As a pastor, I think this is especially true. I had to learn very early on in my ministry that I could not allow my mood or emotional state to affect the way that I communicated to my church. It might help me feel better for a moment, but it certainly doesn’t help the people. As leaders, we must always be focused on what helps our people the most, and resist the temptation to be self-centred — especially when it comes to our emotions.

Choose your Language Wisely

Eric Greitens, in reference to the tools that climbers carry to the summit, writes that every tool has a purpose and every tool has a weight.At sea level, for example, an ax feels light as a feather.But at12,000 feet, and hours from reaching the summit, an extra pound feels like an anvil. He compares the tools of a climber to the words we pack in our mindsets. 

We have spent an enormous amount of time as a team focused on just the right words. For example, we spent an hour every Monday for a period of three months as a team working through our 10 culture codes — which are short, precise phrases that empower the culture we want our staff to work in. I believe the right phrase at the right time can become rally cries for your vision, empowering your team to move ahead. Words matter that much, and so it is important as leaders to pay attention to our words and how we are using them with our people.

Focus on What You Can Control

Determine Your Focus

Psychologist Martin Seligman speaks of resilience or toughness in terms of optimism. Optimistic people see the effects of bad events or setbacks as temporary, rather than permanent. 

Optimism all depends on where your focus is. As I often say, what you focus on, you give power to. So, if you focus on your mistakes or the past you will empower that, but, if you focus on the future and what you will do better next time, you empower that and will remain optimistic.

[bctt tweet="What you focus on, you give power to. Where's your focus?" username="kellystickel"]

Another point Seligman makes is that resilient people don't let setbacks or bad events affect unrelated areas of their lives.  People lacking resilience often jump from thinking “I’m not good at this” to thinking “I’m not good at anything.”

While this might sound funny, I have taken Mark Gungor’s teaching on boxes and used it to my advantage. Gungor teaches that men’s brains and women’s brains are different. Men think in categories, or boxes, and women think like a ball of spaghetti — everything is connected to everything. So, if I’m going to think in boxes as a man, I might as well use it to my advantage. That means if I am failing in one category, then I won’t let it effect the next category. I have learned how to “box” my thinking and even my calendar so that I can concentrate on one thing at a time and provide excellence to each area of responsibility.

Reframe Negative Experiences

Resilient organizations know how to reframe negative experiences.  If your organization has recently gone through a setback,  it's vital to ‘reframe’ your experience in a way that moves you forward.

Be honest. Make sure, when you are reframing a setback, that you are not deceiving yourself or your people. I think as a leader, that sometimes that means simply saying, “I was wrong on this one.” As the leader, take the blame for the setback. Whether it was your fault or not. This brings strength and courage to your team. Then, focus yourself and your people on what we have learned from this setback. What we can do differently next time so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes.

Avoid Excuses

Sometimes in trying times, we choose to play the victim because playing the victim is easier than learning.Some people even go passive.

I am definitely working on this area. One way I am working on it is to regularly pay attention to the areas where I am making excuses. Excuses are the language of victims. And if I am making excuses in an area, then I have become a victim there and therefore have removed my power to change that area. As a leader, I sometimes recognize that I make excuses for other people, if I do that on a regular basis then I have a problem and will need to adjust my thinking in order to make a change.

[bctt tweet="Excuses are the language of victims. It removes your power to change." username="kellystickel"]

Make Modeling Resilience A Priority

Dr. Jon Warner encourages certain behaviours in leaders who want to model resilience for their organization:

  1. Engage in re-energizing yourself on a regular basis.

Focus on yourself as a 3 part being and ask, what energizes me physically? For me, it’s exercise and getting enough sleep. What energizes me mentally? For me, it’s reading books. What energizes me spiritually? For me, it’s reading the Bible.

2.Create positive working environments

For me, a positive working environment is one in which I am constantly challenged to be better and to do better. Otherwise, I am bored. I know the temptation for many people is to think a positive working environment is one void of conflict, but I completely disagree with that. I think a healthy amount of conflict is a catalyst for growth and is so important to a successful organization.

3. Build strong networks and alliances

I have intentionally sought out a variety of mentors and networks of leaders that I can learn and grow from. I have done this by attending conferences and when I connect with a great leader, I often ask “who is someone you know that I should know?” That allows me to network more broadly.

For every leader, regardless of how big or small your team is, it is important to communicate in such a way that everyone on your team has the ability to hear your heart and get a clear understanding of your expectations and vision for their future. That is the area, right now, that I am working on doing for our pastors and leaders within Victory Churches in Canada as I take on the new role of chairman of theVictory Churches throughout Canada.

In 2015, it was predicted that 10,000 churches would close their doors in the United States. It takes resilience not only to remain but to remain relevant. My opinion is that many churches are closing their doors because they lost their focus on the main thing. The main thing isn’t to be a social club for saints, but a hospital for sinner. We lose when we start listening more to those we are trying to keep then those we are trying to reach. It’s hard work keeping that focus and it takes a whole lot of resilience to do so, but it is vital because, the church is the hope of the world.