I recently spent time with someone who’s been struggling with difficult mood-swings, which have included some really low points of deep depression. Whilst things are still not easy I was impressed with their attitude of still wanting to make the most of life and how they were learning to manage their situation. What stood out most for me was how they’d been developing resilience, and I told them so.
Resilience is hugely important – in every area of life, including leadership.
Not long ago I finished reading Option B – a fascinating read by Sheryl Sandberg (author of Lean In) and Adam Grant (author of Give & Take and Originals). It’s subtitle – Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy – is a good summary of the book, as it tells Sheryl’s story of how she’s dealt with the trauma of the sudden death of her husband. The book is full of wisdom for life – including much that’s helpful for leaders to consider and apply in their own lives, at home and in the workplace.
‘I thought resilience was the capacity to endure pain’ writes Sandberg in the Introduction, ‘so I asked Adam how I could figure out how much I had. He explained that our amount of resilience isn’t fixed, so I should be asking instead how I could become resilient. Resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity – and we can build it. It isn’t about having a backbone. It’s about strengthening the muscles around the backbone.’
Leadership is important in every sector of life. We need good leaders. Courageous leaders. Kind leaders. Resilient leaders who not only survive but also thrive through life’s ups and downs. Leaders who are followers of Christ know this is important as the Bible has so much to say about resilience. Not only are there multiple examples of resilient leaders (eg, Abraham, Deborah, Esther and Paul) but there are also many Bible verses that encourage us to develop resilience, such as 2 Corinthians 4:8: ‘We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.’ Ephesians 6, which is about living in midst of the battles of life describes resilience in terms of ‘standing’ and ‘standing firm’.
Sometimes when I think of ‘standing firm’ I recall a TV commercial for a child’s toy that was popular when I was growing up. The toy was called a Weeble. Weebles were characters made in such a way that even though they rocked and looked like they were down, they always rebalanced and popped back upright again. The commercial had one of those jingles that annoyingly got lodged in your head, and I still remember it: Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down! (If you really want to see it, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKcAWO_IznI)
Learning to build resilience helps leaders become more weeble-like, which is at the heart of Sandberg’s excellent book. I commend it as an important and helpful book for every leader to digest and learn from. Because leaders who build resilience might wobble but they don’t fall down.