Why You Must Be Resilient to Be a Successful Leader

Purple pansy growing out of the concrete pavement stone crack overcoming all odds.

Do you remember how it felt the last time you or your team achieved something meaningful? Whether you received an award on stage or it showed up in the bank account, chances are, you felt pride and a natural high.  

While those feelings are wonderful, have you ever stopped to think about the key ingredients that helped you get there? There is a good chance talent, timing, coaching, and teammates had a lot to do with it. However, without the skill of resilience, your ultimate success would never have happened. 

Take Owen, a young entrepreneur, for example. When he first set out to solve the problem of reducing turnover in young professionals through software and coaching, he was flush with passion and excitement. 

At first, everything looked up as he successfully raised money, hired his first five team members, and acquired an initial round of customers. However, quickly those early wins turned into significant losses. The software failed, customers got disgruntled, and the promised results weren’t coming to fruition. 

So Owen did the opposite of what he should have done. He blamed his team members, complained about his customers, and eventually folded up shop. The result was unhappy investors, lost jobs, and a talented professional who believed he wasn’t worthy of success. 

One of the main reasons these negative outcomes happened was because Owen and his team hadn’t developed the skill of resilience.

What is Resilience?  

Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties and demonstrate toughness. By itself, resilience is dynamic because one can have more or less of it in different situations. Resilience enables people to continue learning and adapting to overcome challenging situations. 

Resilience enables leaders and teams to learn and adapt to overcome challenging situations.

Those professionals lacking resilience get easily overwhelmed, flustered, and often have worse outcomes. While negative results alone should drive you to be more resilient, most people choose not to be out of bad habits and faulty thinking. 

People can get better at being more resilient because it’s a skill. It is a way of thinking and behaving that’s developed gradually through experience and often unlearning what bad parents or bad bosses have taught us. 

Resilience is a way of thinking and behaving that is developed gradually through experience and often unlearning what bad parents or bad bosses have taught us. 

Resilience is a way of thinking and behaving that is developed gradually through experience and often unlearning what bad parents or bad bosses have taught us.

The Makeup of Resilient Leaders

Researchers have identified the leadership skills that build a team’s capacity to take risks and bounce back from setbacks. They found that leaders who encourage employees to learn on the job and listen when they voice their ideas for change build team resilience and effectiveness.

Beyond listening and encouraging team members, I have found that there tend to be four essential elements that allow leaders to demonstrate resilience.

  1. Responsibility
  2. Confidence
  3. Emotional Intelligence
  4. Competence

When leaders take ownership of challenges happening in their world (responsibility), have an internal belief in themselves (confidence), get their emotions to work for them and not against them (emotional intelligence), and can do something successfully or efficiently (competence), resilience comes out naturally. 

If you see some of these elements in yourself, or you find yourself falling into the same pattern of thinking as Owen, here’s what you can do to develop the skill of resilience further.

1. Remind Yourself to Be Resilient Daily

Life is difficult, which means work is challenging. You can accept this or get aggravated, but you cannot change it. The mistake professionals make is that we believe work should be easy and that our professional and personal lives would be happier if it were. 

The problem isn’t that work is difficult. It’s supposed to be. As I tell leaders in the Coaching for Excellence Workshop, “If coaching were easy, everyone would be doing it.” Suppose this wasn’t enough—the more important work you are doing, the more resistance you will encounter pursuing it. So work in whatever capacity you do it proposes a series of problems and dilemmas. How we respond to these events determines the direction of professional journeys.  

The more important things are, the more resistance you encounter pursuing them.

Your job will be to remind yourself daily to be resilient. Find a mechanism like a rubber band on your wrist or a say to yourself when adversity hits, “The only way is through.” 

If you lead a team, it’s your job to remind teammates that they can become more resilient, and you can help them do this by creating a supportive and problem-solving culture.  

2. Take Maximum Responsibility 

The culture we live and work in today has leaders who teach us to reject responsibility. To blame someone else instead of taking personal responsibility. While there are many things out of your control, the best leaders always take responsibility.

Responsibility is the state or fact of being accountable for something. I wish in the dictionary they would make the primary synonym of responsibility, leadership. A great way to think about this is leaders either created the problem, contributed to the problem, or tolerated the problem.

Leaders either created the problem, contributed to the problem, or tolerated the problem.

When you take maximum responsibility, you are decisive, solve problems, abstain from placing blame, and look at your actions to improve the situation. There is nothing easy about this, but you do it without thinking once you master it through your mental habits. 

3. Take One Step Towards Improvement

When leaders are at their best, they are getting a little bit better every day. The aggregation of marginal gains (1% rule) was made famous by British cycling coach David Brailsford. To be more resilient, you have to take one step towards improving every day. 

In her new book Smart Growth, Whitney Johnson said, “Grow or don’t grow. You choose.” The power that is in these words is unrelentin. Can you or your team take one step toward improvement? Is there one thing you can do today that will make the challenges you are up against better tomorrow?

It is ok to delay gratification, embrace reality, and release the illusion that you should have it all figured out in a day. Commit to taking one step at a time and advance forward. 

Closing

Some enormous challenges and crises are going on in the world and in your workplace right now. What I want you to remember is no crisis is insurmountable. In contrast, this doesn’t mean the outcome you wish will happen on the timeline you desire. However, it certainly won’t happen if you give up and don’t choose to be resilient.  

If you remind yourself to be resilient daily, take maximum responsibility and take one step towards improvement, you will be on your way to modeling what the best leaders do, demonstrating the skill of resilience.  

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

Simple Things Great Leaders Care About Everyday

Wooden miniature at the start point of puzzle maze wood block. Leadership concept.

Ask a group full of professionals what they want out of a manager, and chances are you’ll hear “someone that cares about me” at least half of the time. While it seems like an obvious and simple desire, the sad reality is it’s a rarity.  

According to Gallup, managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units, yet only 36% of U.S employees are engaged in their work and workplace.  

While employee engagement is undoubtedly a complex topic, engagement improves when managers genuinely caring about the people they lead.  

Employee engagement improves when managers genuinely care about the people they lead. 

Webster defines caring as “to look after and provide for the needs of.” It doesn’t take skill to care. All that’s required is to have a heart for people and the courage to do what’s in their best interest, even when it’s not easy.

Do’s and Do Not’s

Megan Witherspoon had a viral post on LinkedIn got me thinking, effective leaders do and don’t care about many things; what are they? Based on my personal experience, studying over 60,000 managers and coaching leaders at every level here is my list. Let me know in the comments what you would add or subtract: 

Effective leaders DO care about:

  • Their people and helping them reach their potential
  • Their organization and team culture 
  • Each team members attitude, including their own
  • Each team members effort, including their own
  • Respect and trust between team members
  • Proving the best tools and environment to help achieve success
  • How people are leading themselves
  • How team members are growing and developing
  • The achievements and results of their team 
  • Empowering people to make decisions
  • The core values and character of people
  • The mental, physical, and financial health of their team members
  • Getting the truth on the table
  • Communicating clear standards and expectations

Effective leaders DON’T care about:

  • Who gets the credit
  • Where work is done
  • How work is done
  • Pleasing everyone
  • Always being right
  • Changing their mind

Does a Long List Mean Leadership is Hard?

Often when lists are long, it means the job, role, or task is difficult. Leadership is no different. However, just because leadership is hard doesn’t mean you can’t be successful, especially if you start the complex topic of being a successful leader through the correct lens. I defined a leader in Building the Best this way, 

“A leader is someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve in order to elevate others.”

Instead of thinking about leadership as unattainable or something only meant for certain people with unique talents, start thinking that it’s for you. The most essential element of leadership isn’t talent; it’s choosing to lead right from where you are.

“The most essential element of leadership isn’t talent, it’s choosing to lead right from where you are.”

Leading from where you are starts with a decision to embrace two primary things:

  • Responsibility
  • Ownership

When you can get in the headspace that you are responsible and are willing to take ownership of things in your sphere of influence, you are leading right from where you are. It’s my hope you will not only embrace this challenge but you will invite it into your career. Because if there is one thing I know for certain, we need more people choosing to take responsibility and ownership to lead right where they are.

What did I miss out on? Tell me in the comments

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

5 Leadership Truths You Need to Know

“Expectations are the seeds of resentment,” a wise mentor once told me. 

It’s a lesson that’s easy in concept but not in execution. An expectation is simply a belief that is future-focused that may or may not be realistic. Often we create unrealistic expectations about how something is going to play out, and when it doesn’t happen exactly that way, our world feels like it is crashing down.  

This is especially true about our leadership journey. While it’s great to set our sights high, we have to be ready for the reality of leading in a world that’s always changing. It’s a delicate balance of being optimistic, realistic, and resilient. 

Instead of setting a low bar about the future, the best leaders remain hopeful, at the same time, know the path to a brighter future is littered with challenges and struggles. 

Leadership is a journey and not a destination.

I start every virtual leadership workshop off by sharing with participants that “leadership is a journey and not a destination.” The reason is simple; leadership is a series of skills that you can always get better or, unfortunately, get worse.  

To help you get better on your leadership journey, it’s essential to level set on a few key leadership truths to help you avoid sprouting those seeds of resentment.  

1. When things go wrong, it’s your fault.

The late great Kobe Bryant said, “Leadership is responsibility.” Bryant was right, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Just think of all the CEO’s who have been fired because of mistakes made by team members.

Since one of the essential elements of leadership is empowerment, by its very nature, other people will be making decisions where the information is (as they should).  

As a result, mistakes will be made without your direct input or influence. Those mistakes ultimately fall on your shoulders because you are responsible for your people and the outcomes.  

If you’re in a leadership position, taking responsibility when things go wrong is required.  

With the responsibility also comes a deep sense of loyalty to a leader because people know their leader has their back.   

2. When things go right, it’s because of your team.

It’s tempting and easy to take credit for a team’s success when you are at the top of the organization chart. But just because it’s tempting and easy doesn’t mean it’s right. Dave Cancel, the founder of Drift, said, “My best advice for leaders: when things go wrong, take all the blame. When things go right, give away all the credit.”

Following up and following through on this leadership truth is hard and takes practice. We are taught from the time we are in school to raise the trophy high above our heads, not above others.

Coach Nick Nurse of the Toronto Raptors gave us all a masterclass in how to properly give credit to their team right after winning NBA Championship last year. Your job is to mimic Coach Nurse the next time something significant happens to your team. 

3. You can’t help everyone.

One of the hardest leadership lessons I learned is that you can’t help everyone. Each person is responsible for their actions and choices. As much as you want to choose for someone else, you can’t.  

As I wrote in Building the Best, “A leader’s job is to set high standards and help your people meet and exceed them.”  

Because people have free will to choose, it means some people simply won’t be on board and make the necessary decisions to be a part of your team, and that’s okay. Treat each person the same, and do your very best to help them succeed and then remove yourself from the outcome. 

4. Your biggest hurdle is muting distraction.

In a business environment that changes by the hour, not the year, distractions are inevitable. It’s hard not to have your head on a swivel looking for new and better opportunities personally or the team. However, one of the things that makes a leader great is their ability to mute distractions.

One of the things that makes a leader great is their ability to mute distractions.

Distraction is anything that takes our focus away from where it needs to be at any given moment. Since eliminating distractions all together isn’t possible, I coach leaders to mute distractions by asking three simple questions:

  • “Do you have defined priorities for your team?”
  • “Is this distraction critical to our success right now?”
  • “Can I (or we) do something about this distraction?”

5. The doubt doesn’t go away, keep leading anyways.

Each promotion or day is going to bring about unique challenges that will test your confidence, and doubt will ultimately follow. But doubt can be overcome by action.  

The action required is choosing leadership. Everyone starts as a beginner. At some point, everyone experiences their “firsts” — first time leading a meeting, first time leading a project, first time leading a team, etc. That means you are built to learn and adapt as you go. Keep leading your best day in and day out regardless of the doubt you feel.   

Closing

I am sure you have heard the saying, “The truth hurts.” It’s only correct when you don’t know the truth. It’s my hope, now that you either know or were reminded of these leadership truths, it will help you moving forward.

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping improve the performance of struggling managers. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of  Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

Why the Best Leaders Don’t Fall In Love With Their Title

wooden chess pieces

Do you remember how it felt when you got that promotion that also included a Manager, Supervisor, or Executive title? Chances are, you felt pride, a sense of accomplishment, and a bit of excitement. 

While there is nothing wrong with having a new title, there is a good chance it’s hurting your ability to effectively lead. Titles are dangerous for those who hold them because they create a distraction away from the actual responsibility of leading others.

Take Mark, an experienced regional manager at a fast-growing company, for example. When he was first promoted to a position of leadership he was flush with excitement and passion. 

At first, he carried that passion when he interacted with team members and customers. Everything was going well, but then the pressures of the job and his team’s performance caught up. The output from his region wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t growing at the pace his venture-backed company demanded.  

Mark did was most managers in this position do, and started to put extra emphasis on people working at an accelerated pace (at the expense of everything else). He demanded performance reports be created and turned in within a couple of hours, he expected 12-14 hour days, and he denied requests for PTO.  

The result was a burned-out team who began seeking opportunities for employment elsewhere. The reason was simple: Mark didn’t focus on leading and instead focused on fulfilling the job requirement of his title.  

Sure, reports have to be run and the performance of his team matters, but solely focusing on the duties required to be a manager, supervisor, or executive is a recipe for disaster. There’s a substantial difference between the title of “manager” and the actions of a leader; one is vastly more important than the other in today’s business environment. Therein is why much of the primary roles of a manager can be automated and replaced by technology. On the other hand, there has never been a more important time in our history to be a leader.  

If you find yourself falling into the same pattern as Mark, here’s what you can do: 

Take Responsibility

Making any change starts with admitting the problem. On a recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast, Amir Ghannad spoke about the importance of taking responsibility. He said, “Leaders either:

1. Created the problem,

2. Contributed to the problem, or

3. Tolerated the problem.

You must be self-aware enough to realize and take responsibility for your intense focus on your title instead of your people. Start by looking in the mirror.  

Focus On Your #1 Job

I know you think your job is to execute the tasks expected of your management role. While you absolutely have to do the things required to complete the job your primary role of being in a position of leadership is to elevate others.  

I define leadership in Building the Best as someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve others to produce an improved state over an extended period of time. But simply knowing this definition isn’t enough for the most influential leaders — the real difference lies in living it out because actions speak louder than words.

I have yet to encounter a strong leader who isn’t keenly aware of how important their actions are, as far as setting an example to the people they lead. Many are borderline fanatical about the decisions they make and the positions they put themselves in.

Get a Coach to Help

If I am being honest, there is no way I would have written this 5 years ago, but I have never been more convinced that every leader should have someone to coach them to higher levels of performance and be their accountability partner.

As strong and experienced as you may be, no one has all the answers. Whether you believe that professional coaching will help you or not, seeking someone else to bounce ideas off and verbalize the decisions you are making will be a key to your success.  

There is a major trend happening right now where organizational leaders are seeing the benefit of one-on-one coaching and making investments to support their people. If you find yourself in one of these situations, that’s excellent. If you aren’t, seek out support from an outside coach or partner up with a colleague and help each other.

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About the AuthorJohn Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on instagram @johngeades.