I’ve worked with some great leaders, lots of good ones and a few who left me wondering if the hiring committee had played a cruel joke.
Early in my career, I worked at a company that was loaded with great leaders. Almost all were homegrown. The executive team had brought the business back from the brink and turned it into an industry leader. The company was also a leader when it came to employee engagement. Employees, from new hires to the old guard, were proud to work for the company and confident in senior leadership.
I didn’t fully appreciate at the time what the executive team had pulled off. I assumed every organization was blessed with this caliber of leader. I’d learn over the years that resilient leadership is a rare and wonderful thing.
Ali Grovue and Mike Watson with Ignite Management Services are doing their part to close this leadership gap. Through coaching established and emerging leaders, the authors of “Rise Up: Leadership Habits for Turbulent Times” have identified six essential habits that separate the best from the rest.
Resilient leaders build relationships based on mutual trust. “If your team does not trust you, you cannot succeed,” say Grovue and Watson. Trust is built through care, communication, character, consistency and competence.
Great leaders are inquisitive. “Be present, ask questions and listen deliberately.” Make a habit out of asking open-ended questions. You don’t know all the answers or even all the questions you should be asking.
Humility is another hallmark habit of resilient leaders. Success is a team effort so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Resilient leaders are optimistic. They believe that hard work pays off and leads teams and organizations to a better place. “Leaders who fear the worst will be more prone to accepting mediocrity. Their mindset permeates their team, who invariably embrace negativity, which stifles creativity.”
Great leaders have the courage to push themselves, their teams and organizations out of their comfort zones. They also have the courage of their convictions, refusing to compromise on core values.
And above all, resilient leaders are disciplined. It’s the one habit to rule them all, says Grovue and Watson. “Self-discipline is the master habit that enables leaders to sustain behavior change across all six habits. The most resilient leaders are those who are unrelenting in their efforts to prioritize their health and use their time well.”
Grovue and Watson acknowledge that making these six habits a daily practice will be challenging. You can’t get away with mastering a few and ignoring or faking the others. You’ll also need outside help to break your bad habits and build up the right ones.
“If resilient leadership were easy, we would see much more evidence of it,” say Grovue and Watson. “Countless leaders have ambitiously set out to change the way they lead. Yet few make changes that are enduring. Building new habits is a difficult thing. It takes great tenacity to redefine, on a permanent basis, how we lead – and requires having the discipline to stick with it and the ability to reengage when we face setbacks.”
These are tough and turbulent times. Now more than ever, we need resilient leaders who share Grovue and Watson’s belief that “being a great leader is about enabling people, individually and collectively, to be the best versions of themselves in pursuit of noble goals.”
So if you’re a leader who’s only in it for the next promotion with a bigger title and more pay, perks and power, you have a choice. You can either change your mindset and adopt new habits or step aside and let a resilient leader rise up and take the helm.
Organizations would also be wise to require everyone heading off for leadership training and development to first read Grovue and Watson’s book and do some serious self-reflection. It’ll be time well spent.
Jay Robb serves as communications manager for McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.