Right now a lot of leaders have been through and are emerging from a major crisis. Considering how the global situation looked from the outset it was not clear how or if at all companies would survive and with them their employees including their leaders.
To emerge from any crisis stronger than we went into, as leaders, we need to focus on three factors in ourselves to gain or regain additional strength:
• Connect to our inner foundations,
• unearth our strong value base and
• build enhanced resilience.
Before jumping right into what these mean let us first explore what factors are at play in a crisis, externally and internally, and what their effects are on us as leaders.
The biggest effects stem from things happening ‘close to home’: Job’s news in the company, drastic cuts in budgets and job losses amongst friends around us have the potential to stoke the inner unrest and create subliminal stress. In addition, the impact of a crisis has on us is also influenced by the media even if our direct environment has not (yet) been affected by it. Journalists tend to look for the biggest most dramatic stories available and sometimes paint exaggerated pictures. Even if we are aware of such tendencies it will still affect us subconsciously. In some of us those external factors meet internal ones which in combination increase inner unrest and stress further. Internal factors can also be enhanced by challenging self beliefs, mental models questioning our leadership or real limitations of our ability to deal with uncertainty and the unknown. Not all of us are born to be deep sea explorers.
As an effect, our ability to remain decisive and show strong leadership may be significantly impaired by all the stress triggered by these internal and external factors. Yet, in a crisis more than usual we as leaders are expected to be decisive and demonstrate strong leadership.
So, how can we strengthen ourselves or those leaders who report to us in troubled times? As mentioned in the beginning; there are three factors which can help enormously in such situations:
1. Connect to our inner foundations
We can achieve this by better understanding our personal foundations and what they are based on. Do we know what is really important to us? Not just right now, but what is important to give our life a deeper meaning? When we are clear on this part, we need to refresh our awareness of our real strengths. Too often, under stress we may get logged into thoughts about our weaknesses. And yet, we are much better off focusing on our strengths and use these to help us getting on top of things. Both combined allow us to draw much more energy from these deep roots to enhance our ability to act and lead.
2. Unearth our strong value base
Our personal values are our inner compass for life guiding us to achieve what is really important to us. Creating or renewing a strong base of shared values can help us and those working with us feeling much more aligned and supported when things are getting tough. We can enhance such awareness through conscious communication about our values and their importance for us as guidance. We can pay attention when making decisions to honor our values and demonstrate clear alignment.
3. Build enhanced resilience
This is the top factor of all three. Having said this, resilience cannot exist sustainably without the two aspects mentioned above. For resilience to grow it needs deep foundations in ourselves and a strong value base as a kind of nourishment. What does this mean, one may ask? Let’s use the analogy of a tree where almost the same amount of roots is developed underground as the amount of branches and twigs visible above. Only healthy trees with such a balance between roots and branches can weather almost any storm. How deep do our roots reach? The deeper they are the more they can help us keeping inner calm, no matter what.
How to enhance our resilience further is subject of an interview with Chris Johnstone who published a book on the subject. This is also presented in this news segment.