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The Resilient Leader

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“Survival skills” is a topic that isn’t taught in leadership courses. Instead, many high-performers get thrown into the jungle of high- pressure, results-driven organizational landscapes. They push themselves to the outer limits without taking time for recovery.

Having stamina is critical in today’s demanding world of work. Being resilient is about bouncing back during times of high demand, trauma and significant stress and/or loss. It’s a skill and an art to be able to adapt, flex and survive in difficult times.

In my work with organizations across the U.S., I listen to leaders who regularly take on more and more demands. They give their blood, sweat and tears to their teams, their missions and their organizations.

Challenges come daily; changes seem to come out of nowhere and the demand for doing more with less seems to be the company mantra. I hear stories about leaders who “come in earlier and leave later” just to keep up. Guilt mounts as there is less and less time for their families. The cycle begins . . . stress and pressure from work spills over into the family life . . . stress and conflict from home spills back into the work life.

Many leaders confess that they are about at their wits end. What are the symptoms of excessive energy output (sacrifice syndrome)?

  • Chronic tiredness (feeling exhausted)
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent aches and pains (headache, muscle aches)
  • Drinking/smoking/drugs (starts or increases)
  • Eating poorly
  • Little or no time for physical exercise
  • Feeling stressed, tense (unable to relax)
  • Increase in interpersonal conflicts at home or work
  • Losing interest in hobbies, entertainment or previously enjoyable activities

How to be More Resilient

 What can a leader do to reverse this trend of reaching the absolute limits of capacity? If you can relate to the leaders described above, here are some practical steps you can take to become a more resilient leader.

Practical Steps

  1. Stop and honestly evaluate your current level of satisfaction with the following areas of your life: Physical health and well-being, Mental health, Emotional well-being, Purpose in How well are you finding balance in the critical parts of your life?
  2. Identify one area to work on. Set a goal (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-anchored). For example, “I will improve my physical stamina by exercising 30 minutes, 3 – 5 times per ” Write it down in an action plan for yourself.
  3. State why this goal is important to you. What impact will achieving this goal have on you and others?
  4. Specify the potential obstacles might get in the way of achieving this goal. Write them down.
  5. Identify how you will overcome those potential obstacles if they do come up.
  6. List the resources you will need to achieve the goal. Resources might include people, facilities, time, support, equipment, training,
  7. List the specific action steps you will take to achieve the goal. For example: a. Get a physical checkup with my doctor. b. Buy new athletic shoes. c. Block off time: Monday, Wednesday and Friday (30 minutes) to begin a walking workout.
  8. Find an accountability partner. This could be a family member, a friend, a colleague, mentor, etc. to help you monitor progress. You will share your goal/action plan with this partner. He/she will meet with you on a regular basis to review your progress, obstacles and successes.
  9. Reward yourself. I’m a firm believer in the power of rewards. Set up milestones where you will measure progress against your goal. Reward even incremental steps in the right direction.
  10. Celebrate success! Upon achievement of your goal, find a way to celebrate your victory. Congratulate yourself for overcoming destructive patterns and turning that part of your life around. You might want to include your accountability partner or significant others.
  11. Reflect upon the process and identify your next goal!

In Summary

“Put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others.” Every time we board a plane we are urged to follow this simple guideline. It makes sense to be healthy and capable before we can be of value to others. Resilience requires taking care of yourself.

Know the warning signs of excessive sacrifice and stress. Give yourself and your most significant others the gift of self-care and resiliency.


For more information please contact Kathy Cooperman: kathy@kathycooperman.com; www.kathycooperman.com; 720-542-3324

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