Why Leaders Need a Strong Head and Heart

In today’s evolving world, being a leader comes with many demands, most of which are expected to be met at a moment’s notice. Responding to meaty topics such as a global pandemic, racial unrest, and a highly divisive presidential election, this year alone has put the expectations of some to the test.

Though we don’t often find “resilience” included in the competency section of a position description, you’ll find it’s critical of any manager or leader and is oftentimes masked as “does well under pressure.” While this phrase can describe resilience, I believe there’s more to being a resilient leader than the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, or continue forging ahead at times of adversity. Leaders showcase resilience by remaining confident, optimistic, and innovative, even in the toughest of situations. 

I’ve previously written about leaders needing grit— resilience is a critical ingredient of it. Even though it can be what keeps you moving forward amidst challenging tribulations, resilience alone is not enough. Instead, resilience is just the starting point or foundation. Having a deeper emphasis on leadership traits like civility and empathy can separate good leaders from truly great ones. Think of both as branches coming off of the tree of resilience.

Leading With Humility and Civility

For many, empathy and understanding from leaders have come to a head this year. From remote work to furloughs to general pandemic stress and loss, there’s a lot going on in people’s personal lives, and therefore in their professional world as well. As I talked about in my most recent blog, people have grown much more understanding when mistakes or mishaps happen, as many of us are prone to in today’s state of uncertainty.

This summer also provided a much-needed public discussion amidst protests across the world while denouncing police brutality, demanding change and the end of systemic racism. Companies found themselves being called out, criticized, and held accountable to enact an anti-racist culture. For some, June brought huge company-wide changes in leadership, practices, and education. 

2020 has reminded us that we’re all humans before we’re employees. Humility and civility requires each of us to know when to admit we were wrong, accept that change needs to occur, and be appreciative of feedback, as it is a gift. After all, resilient leaders not only handle change but handle it gracefully. 

While differing opinions are crucial for growth, there has to be a level of civility, something a resilient leader is aware of. This election year has put civility to the test, and since there’s no rule book on civility, mistakes have and will continue to happen. Resilient leaders understand the importance of disruptive innovation — change that takes courage and requires a vision — but also know this doesn’t mean silencing or causing harm to others. 

Becoming a More Resilient Leader

In its simplest form, leadership comes from having a strong connection and trust with the people around you. Forbes’ article, 7 Ways to Become a More Resilient Leader, emphasizes this communication as a focal point of resilience, saying the most resilient leaders are  “effective at communicating their intentions to others…being willing to help others understand a new strategy or direction.” Teams that feel understood, supported, and trusted are better able to handle adversity. 

Resilient leadership isn’t something you can take a course on and become a master of. Instead, it takes daily practice — this article goes into some examples to incorporate into your routine— and an overall desire to be the best leader you can be. While the world is in fact changing daily, resilient leaders need to showcase the epitome of humanness — not being afraid to admit mistakes, showing empathy and understanding, remaining calm, and most of all, doing the right thing, even in the toughest of times.