Leadership and Resilience: The Core Strength of Self-Leadership

2020-11-26 14:55

Leadership and Resilience: The Core Strength of Self-Leadership

Resilience has been one of the hottest issues in leadership and organizational development. This topic has received more attention than any other leadership component since COVID-19 became a global pandemic in March. Over the past seven months, the coronavirus crisis has impacted every area of human life, which has also led to fear and uncertainty about the future. Resilience is defined as the "ability to overcome, steer through, and bounce back when adversity strikes" (Reivich & Shatte, 2002). The importance of resilience is to understand the truth that everyone experiences all kinds of adversity whether personal such as divorce, death and bankruptcy, or corporate such as terrorism, natural disaster and global economic crises. . The corona-virus crisis is one of many adversities that we are experiencing currently. This reality also shows that everyone must learn how to cope with and work through very challenging life experiences.

Focusing on resilience also brings about paradigm change in leadership and organizational development.Dr. Paul Magnus, former president of Briercrest Seminary, defines a leader as "a Person (resilient)who influences people to use engaging processes to help them move together toward a compelling purpose, mission, or goal (Tangibles & Intangibles)." With his definition, Dr. Magnus emphasizes resilience as the first step of leadership development. In fact, leadership development tends to focus on external factors such as process, mission and goals while ignoring leaders' own issues such as character development, personal care and growth. The irony of the coronavirus crisis is that it has also created a sense of urgency regarding how to be a more resilient leader, mainly as a result of regulations around social distancing and the economic shut-down.

I would like to introduce Admiral Yi Sun-Shin as one of the most resilient leaders in Korean history. Admiral Yi was an admiral and military general in the Joseon Dynasty. He is famed for his victories against the Japanese navy during the Imjin war. However, his fame stirred up jealousy among other generals who set him up. Eventually, Yi was taken to Seoul in chains to be imprisoned and tortured nearly to the point of death. Yi survived and continued to serve in the Korean navy as a common infantry soldier. His famous victory occurred during the Battle of Myeongyang where, despite being outnumbered 333 warships to 13, he managed to disable or destroy all 133 warships without losing a single ship of his own. We must learn Admiral Yi to not only bounce back not to view our adversities as opportunities or a stepping stone to move into a better future.

The good news is that resilience can be learned through training. The primary goal of resilience training usually includes: 1) developing self-awareness, 2) building self-regulation skills, 3) increasing optimism and gratitude, 4) strengthening connections, 5) learning coping skills. Dr. Reivich & Dr. Shatte, researchers in the US, developed the 56 Resilience Quotient (RQ) test to measure the levels of resilience. Later, Dr. Joohan Kim, professor at Yonsei University, developed the 53 Korean Resilience Quotient (KRQ), which I have used in resilience training for both Koreans and Canadians.

There are three practical steps to cultivate resilience in our lives. The first step is "acceptance." We have to accept that adversity, crisis and suffering are a part of life. For this reason, Michelle Obama, in her book, Becoming, writes "grief and resilience live together.” Secondly, reframe your thinking system with gratitude. "Gratitude" is the key principle for boosting resilience. If you develop a habit of writing 10 things to be thankful for every day for three weeks, you will discover how much you are transformed into a resilient leader. Lastly, discover three life goals you would like to achieve in the next 5 years. Write down your goals and remember the goals over the course of the day.

In conclusion, resilience is a top leadership skill, especially in times of uncertainty. A resilient leader can only help others navigate this stage and find a path towards a brighter future. Sheryl Sandberg, the author of Option B, advises us with her words, "When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” Resilience skills can help you see the new door that has been opened for you when the old door is closed.

Gabrielle Junghee Hong
Candidate of Doctor of Ministry in Leadership, MACM, MACM
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