Busting 4 Common Myths About Resilient Leadership

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This is the 3rd guest blog, written by Eileen McDargh, in our series Lessons in Resilient Leadership. Eileen is a trusted Worldmaker advisor, CEO of The Resiliency Group and author of multiple books including Burnout to Breakthrough. In this blog, Eileen busts 4 common myths about resilient leadership.

You’ve heard the expressions: 

“Keep a stiff upper lip”. 

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going”

“Real men (or women) don’t cry.”

Did you know that behavior behind such statements can damage the relationships in an organization and drive people away? Let’s take a closer look. 

Myth #1: A resilient leader is tough and unemotional.

The past three years have challenged us all. Pandemics, wars, global insecurity, dysfunctional governments, and loss—lots of loss. Good leaders not only feel others’ pain and hurt, but can demonstrate concern, compassion and care. I’ve shown leadership by putting my arm around a colleague (sometimes virtually) and listening, letting my colleague express their feelings and concerns. Reflective statements are powerful ways of attending to others, allowing them to feel heard and understood. We follow leaders who are real, not robotic.

Myth #2: Resilience is easy with determination.

Movies often romanticize conflict and hard times. The music swells to a crescendo, and the hero, with jaw thrust forward, triumphs. In this common portrayal, resilience just requires grit and determination. Well, movies are not always real life. Resilience might be simple, but it is not easy. Resilience requires self-awareness, emotion regulation and energy management. There are times when the leader must stop, take a breath and slow down to think, meditate and yes—even pray. Without personal energy, a leader’s actions can become haphazard and sometimes even dangerous. Exhaustion is not a friend.

Myth #3: Resilient leaders never shift course or change plans.

My dad would call this “being pig-headed”. We live in disruptive times. Often, changing course can be the wisest action. However, ego commonly gets in our own way. Recently, a handful of folks in the U.S. Congressional House of Representatives refused to change their course, which negatively impacted millions across the nation. The big question for any leader is, “What is the wisest course of action? What will benefit the many and not just a few?”. Take small steps, stop to assess the landscape and determine the next course of action. Repeat as necessary.

Myth #4: Resilience is genetic. You’re either born resilient or you're not.

Have you ever heard someone say, “I just don’t have it in my genetic makeup. I’m not as resilient as others.”? The idea that resilience is solely genetic is false. Resilience is a life skill that can be learned and improved. Like any skill, growing your resilience takes patience, practice and persistence. Being resilient is a skill we can all acquire by creating new neuropathways in our brains. Here’s a suggestion, challenge yourself every month to try something you have never done before. If you do this consistently, you will inevitably grow your capacity to face change and grow through adversity. The more you exercise your resilience muscle, the stronger it will become.

For today, here are some words to live by from Will Durant, an American writer, historian and philosopher,

“Forget mistakes. Forget failures. Forget everything except what you are going to do right now and do it. Today is your lucky day.”

Did you like this blog or find it helpful? Click here for more of our Resilient Leadership guest blog series.

Are you a leader who has powerful  insights to share with others? We’d love for you to contribute to future series. Email Katie, Worldmaker’s Communications Manager at katie@worldmakerinternational.org to learn more.

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