Agility and resilience
Whilst these leadership ingredients may get us so far, there are two other critical elements which complete the leadership jigsaw. They are the related concepts of agility and resilience.
For most of human history, people have believed that the world doesn’t change very much. But today, most of us regard profound, widespread and frequent change as inescapable, especially in the modern workplace. Change may well be inevitable. But our relationship to change can be better or worse. We can use change well or we can be baffled and distressed by change. We can grow or diminish. Good leaders actively choose the former. They are agile in the face of change. They use their judgement to adapt their approach to each particular context. They are acutely aware of what type of thinking and behaving each situation requires – of whether they need to draw on their intuition, move quickly to practical action or drill down into the detail – and they adapt their approach accordingly.
What we learn from all of this is that being a leader in the world today is hard – it opens us up to ridicule, misunderstanding, unrealistic expectations and loneliness. Therefore, in order to be successful, leaders need to find ways of coping with this reality through by developing skills that enable them to bounce back from adversity. There is a common myth that in order to be resilient we need to be hard on ourselves. However lack of self-compassion can actually be what contributes to burnout. That is why leaders need to be willing to look at their whole self, including failures, fears and shortcomings, with kindness and understanding if they are going to successfully navigate the choppy waters of leadership.
But above all, they need to remember that being a good leader is an ongoing process and something we can all work towards by keeping these key leadership ingredients in mind.