Home Concepts Concepts of Leadership Resilience Does Not Equal Great Leadership: The Three Choices that Will Forge True and Lasting Resilience

Resilience Does Not Equal Great Leadership: The Three Choices that Will Forge True and Lasting Resilience

14 min read
  • What wolf am I feeding? In Cherokee folklore, there is a story of two wolves that represent opposing forces within each of us. The story teaches us that our future, our destiny is in our control. Our choices about what we nurture and feed will shape the quality of the future we create and experience. With the best intentions, organizations sometimes set up systems that cannibalize resilience and effectiveness.  One organization wanted to encourage creativity to battle a new wave of competition in the marketplace.  Their solution was to pit teams against each other in creative endeavors.  In this zero-sum game, if our team won, yours lost. Compensation and promotion opportunities were dependent on your winning streak.  One leader defined resilience as hoarding information, blocking other teams and ensuring his division made the best products.  He was winning and, in his eyes, he was being resilient in the face of adversity.  His counterpart saw this new system as hurting the culture of collaboration her team had so painstakingly created.  For her, playing in the new system was creating burnout, not resiliency. As she explained to her SVP, “If I feed that wolf, he is going to destroy us.”  This leader influenced, cajoled and sought to transform the wolf the organization had created into a workable system and ecology that not only was effective but fostered true resilience.  What this meant for her was first looking inward and then aligning her values with what the system was asking of her.  In seeing the dissonance, she had a choice to make – she chose to starve the wolf.  When we look around and we see the wolf – the situations, the processes, the systems that hurt our and others’ resilience – will we be able to recognize it for what it is (7)?  And if so, will we feed it?

Looking Forward

  • How can I recognize when I need to upgrade my resilience practices? Anxiety, worry and fear can create stress, triggering resilience practices that may no longer be sufficiently effective.  An ever more pervasive VUCA environment and other disruptions may produce similar effects.  What are we to do?  A creative response can be to pay attention to our resilience fuel tank.  When we are feeling empty, we can be alerted that it is time to sharpen or even re-design our resilience capability. Reivich and Shatté (8), in their research on resilience, found that there were seven different, learnable skills that upgraded one’s inner game and enhanced resilience. It included such skills as shifting limiting beliefs, reframing our interpretation, and taking different perspectives.  Our mindful practice of these skills regenerates the dynamic nature of resilience, increases our engagement and accelerates our growth.


  • What do I need to model, coach and foster in others – both individuals and teams – to help them embody resilience? I say “tomato” you say “tohmatoh.” Realizing that our resilience practices may not be universally adopted could be perplexing.  However, in humility and in service to others and a shared purpose, we can reserve judgment and help those we lead explore how to develop their resilience.  It might mean modeling, meta commenting (9) on and teaching various techniques they can choose from.  It definitely will mean sharing objective feedback compassionately and constructively. And it ideally will mean coaching them to develop the ability to observe and reflect, look inward, outward and forward.  This is about letting go of trying to mold (read as control) others to our way of thinking and behaving.  Rather, it will involve helping them design and experiment as they create their own set of resilience skills.
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