Thursday, March 21, 2013

Leading Resilience

Today’s leaders are more commonly expressing a sense of futility as they find themselves in what are often identified as unsolvable leadership situations. Such circumstances can be some of the most frustrating and energy draining on leaders since solutions are not easily identified and often beyond our control. As leaders, we take pride in our abilities to solve problems, bring order to chaos, and reduce the negative impacts to those we lead. Given the current global and national crises, pick your favorite affecting our world(s), the potential for leaders to retreat into managing rather than leading increases if solutions evade us.

It is human nature to frame the outcome of challenges, leadership or otherwise into win or lose categories but we must recognize not all battles can be won and reframe the problem. Unwinnable leadership moments are the true tests of leaders. The options, and more appropriately, the actions chosen during no-win leadership situations directly affect the severity of the outcome: bad, worse, or catastrophic. We must acknowledge the “bad” as the best outcome possible in certain circumstances.

Consider the following as you manage through the unwinnable leadership moment:

1.  Acknowledge others have been here before.
  • This is not the first time budgets have gone through significant declines.
2.  Leaders are not expected to be the current-day Atlas.
  • Do not take on the weight of the globe on your shoulders and accept the responsibility for all the bad in the world.
3.  Don’t waste time trying to solve problems beyond your control.
  • Focus on actions within your sphere of influence and provide stability and leadership to those within it.
4. Project a vision beyond the “bad” of today.
  • A positive vision from an enthusiastic leader is contagious; fatalistic or apathetic attitudes spread like viruses.
 5. Break the chains of old paradigms.
  • Albert Einstein observed, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
  • Radical problems are not solved with conservative solutions. Seek solutions beyond historical boundaries.
The leaders of tomorrow, the leaders capable of redefining the problem and leading through no-win circumstances, are the keystone of resilient organizations in the future.

Thanks to Chris Wilcox, National Fire Operations Program Leader, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and NWCG Leadership Subcommittee Chairman, for this blog submission.

No comments: