Leadership can be incredibly difficult. What do we do when we hear that emotionally charged, negative internal whisper to just give up? What do we do to amplify and infuse emotional resilience in ourselves and our teams? As I mentioned in my last post, emotional resilience is a critical leadership attribute. Here are four vital behaviors we can immediately develop and instill.
1) Self Awareness and Checking-in
Socrates first said, “Know thyself.” Self-awareness and emotional resilience are indivisible. We have to develop self-knowledge or we will respond to life's challenges in silly, silly ways. Start "checking-in" now: begin taking mental inventory of your self - your thoughts, emotions, actions - and contrast it to reality. Often, in high stress conditions, our emotions will dictate our actions. Conversely, circumstances (not emotions) should dictate our behaviors. Emotionally resilient leaders understand there is a separation between who they are at their core and the cause of a negative or heightened emotion. The stress or trauma might play a part in the current reality, but it does not overtake their permanent identity. The emotionally resilient leader understands we are not our circumstances.
Learning how to “check-in” is a key component in developing EQ. Frequently and eventually habitually take a quick moment and ask, “what am I feeling right now and why?” “What do I perceive others are feeling right now?” Consider what you're feeling and then try to look outside of that emotion or feeling.
Often, I will quickly recognize the temporary nature of my emotional response. Once I have taken the time to check-in and be aware, I can take inventory and then adjust my thinking and responsive behavior. This is not easy, but by developing this self-awareness, with practice (and prayer) I can now approach my situation with a calm(er) mind and adjust my strategy as needed.
2) Maintain Faith and Healthy Perspective
Perspective is everything. Emotional resilience is exactly what it says it is: emotional. When we judge our surroundings, capabilities, adversaries and opportunities through the filter of emotion, we will, at worst, fail, and at best, have a remarkably skewed sense of perspective.
In the Bible, Paul writes in his epistle to the church of Corinth, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9). Paul's assessment and perspective of the situation enjoys a wide-angle lens. The reality of his circumstances did not change the edification by his Savior. Jesus uses the word “peace” over 100 times within the New Testament. Although, in John 16, we are promised trouble in this world, Christ said, “Peace I give to you and peace I leave with you... I have told you these things so that you may have peace.” We aren't designed to be under constant burden. However, we must possess a consistently healthy perspective. No matter the difficulty, we can know we are not alone in the battle and hope is not an illusion, it’s a promise.
3) Seek Solidarity and Team
I can attest to this one personally. I work with leaders and teams in the world of organizational health, change, strategic development, rallying teams and achieving mission. It's one thing to advise others based on opinion. It's quite another to journey through the rigors yourself. Developing emotional resilience requires surrounding ourselves with other resilient people – people whom have been there, those whom likewise are self-aware, are supportive, and will hold us accountable. We must cultivate a team. Military leaders know this better than most.
Teammates offer us the room to grieve and work through our emotions. Teammates help us see the reality in circumstances, see what actions are necessary, and help us adjust our perspective and strategy. A true teammate knows how to listen, empathize and encourage in the face of adversity.
4) Keep Moving Forward
In the Bible, the book of Job tells of a story of a man under incredible “compressive stress.” He literally lost everything. If a man was ever in a position to quit everything (including his faith), it was Job. But in chapter 17, he makes a perfunctory observation. Job is profoundly wrestling with God and his own emotional resilience. Although Job mutters, “my spirit is broken, my days are extinguished, the grave is ready for me,” he then immediately concludes that despite the gravity of his circumstances, "The righteous will keep moving forward.” Despite his ordeal, he knew intuitively that he had to keep moving forward. That, indeed, there was so much more to do.
I had the privilege of serving in the armed forces. After my initial training and seeking a challenge, I was eventually successful at becoming one of a handful of Army Divers. This journey shaped and refined me in incalculable ways. Two lessons stood out in that season: my body is capable of much more than my mind might think it is; and (as Zig Ziglar used to say) it's always too early to quit. On multiple occasions, I knew I just had to keep moving. If I paused, pain or hesitancy could creep in. Remember, the end in mind is normally bigger than the moment at hand. Keep moving forward.
Can we help you splice greater resiliency into your leadership? Can we help instill this into your teams?
Jack Kemp leads the Atlanta, Georgia office and is former military, an attorney, business leader, non-profit executive, organizational coach, connector and collaborator. He presently serves as Managing Principal for PrimAscend, LLC, and previously as Divisional President of a large US non-profit. He has also served on church leadership, for-profit and non-profit advisory boards and committees. Jack’s degrees include a B.S. and J.D. from Michigan State University, and he brings experience in organizational assessment, strategic planning, leadership coaching, risk mitigation and crisis management.