Are you bouncing back in Leadership?

by | Jul 13, 2021 | Leadership Matters

Five years ago, I came across an interesting report, about bouncing back in leadership. It was by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and focused on leaders’ resilience. They reprised it in 2020 with good cause. In this blog I take a slightly different look at its six key lessons learned. These were:

  1. Destigmatise failure for a resilient company culture
  2. Develop risk tolerance
  3. Accept, re-evaluate and face forward
  4. Leadership for resilience: a balanced mindset and humility
  5. Mentoring
  6. Building and using support networks

When I look at this list, I see some interesting groupings of ideas.

First of all, there’s an emphasis on the benefits of agility and flexibility of approach.

When I was qualifying for my accreditation in neuro-linguistic programming, we were taught that flexibility is a key tenet of the discipline. The most flexible person will succeed (or “win”, depending on your viewpoint). That means flexibility in the sense of able to respond appropriately to changing circumstances and keep focused. It also means adapting one’s leadership style to different circumstances AND different people, often simultaneously.

Some believe, mistakenly, that flexible equals weak. That is simply wrong. It takes huge strength to keep focused but remain adaptable and responsive in a complex situation. That’s where conscious risk-taking, and managed “failure” are so vital to leadership success. This is particularly true when you’re bouncing back from something as all-encompassing as the pandemic.

The flexible leader is one who understands risk and how to manage it as a part of their everyday workload. The successful leader is one who combines this flexibility and risk awareness with an ability to keep matters in perspective, so they can accept a situation, deal with it … and move on.

I also notice the importance of self-awareness, to bouncing back in leadership.

Bouncing back in leadership requires a positive and reflective mindset as well as a balanced one. The successful leader needs to understand their own strengths as well as the areas where they need to help of others to improve. Whether a mentor, or a skilled team member whose specialist knowledge can give the organisation the edge, the leader needs to recognise what they have to offer, and work with the other person (or people) to improve their own leadership performance, as they lead their team, or even organisation, forward.

The self-aware leader will understand their boundaries, so they will create and maintain a positive, inclusive, can-do culture. Knowing where to stop, and help people learn for themselves by doing for themselves, is key. That will help their organisation to thrive; this is particularly important in the post-pandemic business world.

The self-aware leader will also be mindful of what they simply should not be doing. It could be things they can’t do, or things they don’t have time to do. There could also be lots of things where others are better-placed to do them than the leader. Understanding that is a big part of being a successful leader. It makes for better headspace, to respond to the business’ need. It also can stop expensive, ego-driven mistakes!

The final way I think the learning divides-up, is people’s reliance and need for people.

A leader can’t be a leader if people won’t be led. The interpersonal skills required by leaders are perhaps more important than any others. It is central to a leader’s toolkit, to deal with others in an effective, positive and human way. Driving people too hard, pushing deals too aggressively, failing to notice other people’s circumstances … these are all leadership crimes against organisational resilience, in my view. A leader must learn to allow reliance on other humans, for help, for effective delivery and for support.

Support while bouncing back? Surely we’re back to weakness here?

If you think leaders don’t need support, you are missing the whole point. Successful leaders exist in a complex, inter-related matrix of relationships, where individuals need other individuals and teams, and even whole organisations. The same applies for teams and whole organisations too. And that’s before you even get near a major crisis, let alone responding to, during and after Covid.

Mentoring is a formal and acceptable word for “leadership support”, where a leader takes inspiration and sometimes even instruction from someone who can teach them what and how. Business and social networks exist to build business, but any leader who ignores the opportunity to connect with other leaders at a human level is missing a massive trick. People buy from people.

Remember Maya Angelou’s quote, part of which is

“People will never forget how you made them feel”.

Leaders need to understand that those people consenting to be led deserve to be treated well, with respect, and to be involved in decision-making. That way, an organisation is well run. It is also in a great place to bounce back from something as huge as the pandemic, because the organisation will have employees who really care about its values, performance and the outcomes everyone can achieve together. People matter. A successful leader never ever forgets that.

I hope you have found these takes on the CMI report of use and interest. If you are doing all they recommend, that’s great. Congratulations.

If you need some help to get you there, I can help with that. Please get in touch and let’s have a chat about getting you bouncing back in leadership.