Last year, I joined a team of fellow Veterans and we launched a new and unique nonprofit organization. The premise was simply stated, the message easily communicated, and the concept was pressure tested, solidified and proven. All that remained was a good plan and prosecution of that plan. Starting a nonprofit is easy, right?
Many would say that starting and growing a sustainable NPO is substantially harder than starting and growing a commercial enterprise. I have to concur. Suffice it to say that it's hard, hard, hard to launch any new organization. Inescapably, there will be many moments of challenge. As these moments gather and test a leader, internal voices - quietly at first - can whittle away at the psyche creating discouragement and distress. What should a leader do?
When Facing a Challenge…
First, don't listen to that voice! Second, deploy the same level of emotional resilience as the emotional resolve that initially led to the undertaking. But what does that mean? Does “resilience” simply mean pushing through? Or is true emotional resilience something more?
The Importance of Resilience
Webster’s definition for resilience is, "the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress." I like that: a strained body deformed by compressive stress. Can anyone relate? Strain is a natural component of life. Enough strain will cause compression and emotional deformation. If not curtailed, that growing internal chorus begins whispering one thing: quit.
Even the best laid plans will face adversity. We start things, we build things, we innovate, we charge the hill... but at some point we will hit a wall. Yet despite this, many leaders are successful and go on to achieve incredible momentum. This truth tells us something important about these leaders… they've got something that gets them through. It's a honed and developed measure of emotional resilience.
Sure, a few leaders possess this naturally. However, the good news for the rest of us is that emotional resilience can be developed and refined. We have to choose to nurture and cultivate this competency.
These days, it seems fewer and fewer people have the desire or commitment to hang in there and lead through trial. Jay Desko and David Marks say it this way in their book, FIT: Improving The Leadership Health of Yourself and Others, “One of the differentiating disciplines of successful leaders is that they consistently manifest a resolve to show grit and not easily quit. Today, we increasingly see people sign up but not show up, start but not finish, and promise but not deliver.”
Life is 100% guaranteed to get hard. As leaders, do we know how to sustain effectively despite wall after wall, hurtle after hurtle, challenge after challenge, human dynamic after human dynamic...? How do we overcome? Is it simply mentally pushing through? Or is emotional resilience something more? Can it be learned or is it innately part of our wiring? We either have it or we don't... Right??
So, how do you instill and develop emotional resilience in ourselves and our teams? Send The Center a note OR stay tuned. In my next post, I'll show you 4 key practices a leader can implement immediately to up their game.
Jack Kemp 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., and he has experience in organizational assessment, strategic planning, leadership coaching, risk mitigation and crisis management.