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Everywhere you turn it seems the topic of leadership is present. Books, blogs, and podcasts constantly talk about what leadership is, how to achieve it, or how it is displayed. One of the most commonly discussed areas is on the characteristics that leaders have.

An example of this is influence. It is no secret that leaders have tremendous amounts of influence on those around them, both positive and negative. How they exert that influence is key. So it is a good thing that this is routinely talked about.

However, a lesser-discussed characteristic or quality of a leader is resilience. People generally look at a successful leader and think that it happened overnight. What they don’t see are the years of hard work done behind the scenes. They don’t see the frustrations, the attacks, the resistance.

But those things are present. By virtue of their willingness to be out front leading the way, leaders make themselves targets. Leaders are the first to get ridiculed and questioned when things don’t go as planned. Good leaders give credit to others when things go well and they accept the blame when things fail. Sadly, their opposition is all too willing to accept the glory or to point the finger!

Resilient leaders are those who know, understand, and accept the fact that they will get hit in the front by the opposition and stabbed in the back by their followers. Yet, because they see the big picture (or sometimes even a different picture) they are willing to put themselves in this position.

Resilient leaders have bad days, they get beat down, they often question their why. But resilient leaders get back up. They are committed to the vision that they have and continue to press on towards the mark. Those who have this quality are not afraid to get shot for being the messenger; they believe that the message is worth it.

Certainly, these leaders don’t get excited about being challenged or hammered at every turn. They do not wake up in the morning wondering “gee, how can I get blasted by the naysayers today?” However, leaders do not shy away from the obstacles. They realize that these are simply a part of the role that they have chosen to take on. They embrace the opportunity to improve the conditions around them.

How can leaders build resiliency?

  1. Resilient leaders stay physically healthy. They eat right, exercise routinely, and get enough sleep. The energy required for a leader to get things done can be substantial and a healthy lifestyle is critical to maintaining that energy. An endless barrage of meetings and long hours can leave them feeling depleted, but resilient leaders schedule time for health.
  2. Resilient leaders stay mentally and emotionally fit. They find an inner source of strength to draw upon when the weight of their responsibility is crushing them. They make time to dump the negative thoughts running through their minds so that they can focus on the direction they want to go in. They read, they write, they engage in hobbies that give them a break from the daily grind of leadership.
  3. Resilient leaders have healthy support networks. A leader knows the road is long and hard and they often feel alone in their efforts. But instead of trying to power through on their own, they develop connections with other leaders to whom they can go for advice or reassurance. They reach out to the network for professional guidance and feedback on their decisions. They also know that sometimes a leader just needs to be validated or to be reminded that their efforts in the face of opposition will be worthwhile. A support network provides this for them.

How do successful leaders stay resilient in the face of opposition?

  1. Successful leaders remind themselves of the big picture. When a leader has a worthwhile goal that they are trying to achieve they will use it as their guiding light. When everyone else has taken their eyes off the goal the leader remembers what they are striving to achieve in the first place.
  2. Successful leaders focus on the positives of what they are achieving. They do not ignore the negatives; those things are real and need to be dealt with. But leaders continue to focus on the good that is taking place. They know that growth involves pain and setbacks. They see what is being accomplished and continue to pursue the result they desire.
  3. Successful leaders expect opposition, they are not surprised by it. They know that it comes with the territory and so they are prepared for the inevitable attacks. No one likes to be caught off guard when opposition arises as it can create stress and a sense of floundering. Successful leaders know resistance will occur and are thus able to maintain a healthier mindset when they show up.

Becoming a resilient leader will not happen overnight. Resilience is something that must be intentionally developed. It is born from adversity and continues to grow and strengthen over time. Each challenge that comes adds another opportunity to exercise it.

The end result is worth the effort required. Goals can be achieved and visions realized. Most importantly, though, the leader who is resilient through the hardships will be the beacon of hope that their followers so desperately need.

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