“Resilience, the new must-have executive skill” (Harvard)

The Harvard Business Review this month has an article on building emotional resilience. “In an era where business keeps moving faster,” the article says, “it is no small wonder that resilience has become the new must-have executive skill.”

The article goes on to explain how the way a leader feels will affect the performance of the whole team. It then describes two ways to “maintain your calm when the roof is falling on you.”

One is to fake it, to “act confident and put on a bold front.” This can work for a while, the article says, but it takes huge effort. Then when people realise that you were faking it, this approach erodes trust.

The other approach is to realise that ultimately, no matter what happens, we can never tell whether an event is going to turn out to be a disaster or an opportunity.

In Inner Leadership we tell the story of the Taoist farmer who suffered a series of what seemed like setbacks and good fortune. But each time something happened, the next event would reverse whether that was a good thing or a bad one. We can never tell whether an event is going to turn out to be an opportunity or a threat, it is just an event. What determines whether or not that event turns out to be beneficial for us or not is the way we choose to respond.

What determines whether or not an event turns out to be beneficial for us is the way that we respond.

The Harvard Business Review suggests taking three steps in response to bad news:

  1. Get clear on what your specific issue is
  2. Look for scenarios where that could turn out to be a good thing
  3. Work to make those scenarios happen

My problem is that this approach doesn’t quite apply to the example it gives, of a person who was laid off early in the financial crisis (which seemed like a disaster) and who then turned out to have a larger payout than people who were laid off later.

Inner Leadership suggests a similar but slightly different approach, with a bit more detail, and some tools to make each step happen:

  1. Centre and ground yourself and make clear emotional sense of the situation
  2. Look for the ten specific types of opportunity that can exist in any situation
  3. Identify and choose the one that suits you best
  4. Describe it in a way that inspires you and other people to want to make it happen

The Harvard Business Review says “resilience has become the new must-have executive skill.”

For Inner Leadership it is not resilience that matters but inspiration that is becoming the name of the game.

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