Blog Post 12-12-13

Resilient Leadership

 Before the sun rises on the day of a race, before the racers take their positions at the start line, before the gun is fired and the screams of the crowd fade to an echoing silence in the background of a beating heart, the runner has to make the choice to run. The following video is a remarkable display of choice and resilience.

 Any race in which 4 people are able to run 600m in less than 2 minutes is an impressive example of perseverance in the face of difficult circumstances. The young woman who falls, Heather Dorniden, has clearly invested a significant portion of her life to athletics, and has developed an impressive ability to run like the wind.

 It's hard to know what went through Dorniden's mind when she fell; when she went from running full speed to becoming, for just a fraction of a second, completely still. From an outside perspective, it looks as though there was no time for decision making or second guessing. But in that barely perceptible moment of time, Dorniden made a choice. The spectators, her coach and her team would have been impressed with her tenacity if she had only righted herself and continued on. But the choice Dorniden made was not simply to get up and keep running. She made the choice not to allow her run to be defined by her fall.

 As leaders, our colleagues look to us for the ability to manage things from the get-go; we’re expected to put time and effort into planning so we’re ready to run the race. But our job as a leader doesn't stop once everything is underway. The true test of leadership comes when things don’t go according to plan. Those are the moments when we have a choice: we can be handicapped by the mistakes and missteps and wobble our way to the finish, or we can choose not to allow our run to be defined by the fall. If we are too proud to be able to admit mistakes, learn from them, and develop solutions, we will never be effective leaders.

Learning often comes from facing and overcoming great difficulties. When resilience is truly tested, we have the potential become better problem solvers, better co-workers and stronger critical thinkers. We have the choice to view the setback as an opportunity to re-evaluate and to keep going. If we believe we’re already experts, we’ll never become the best version of ourselves. A resilient leader is one who continually learns…and who gets back up not just with the intent to finish the race, but with the intent to win.