Developing Resilience & Navigating Complexity

The two key aspects of leadership needed right now

I don’t need to start off by telling you the complexity of the world that we live in and work in. But I will. It’s a shit show out there. Running a business in the last few years has been like being on the largest rollercoaster and you have no idea about what is around the next corner. There have been so many new situations to deal with, which we never thought would happen. A pandemic, Brexit, a climate crisis, the significant war, energy price rises, inflation and interest rate rises, political turbulence, a revolt against power, strikes… it’s almost like we’re in the matrix. 

Leaders are needing to be more resilient than ever before. They are also needing to be highly creative re-inventing how they think and what they do. 

This post addresses the leadership needed for both resilience and creativity. 

But first let me introduce an example. It’s a client that I know well. It’s a food manufacturing business. Here are some of the challenges they have faced over recent years: 

  • Keeping the factory running whilst many of the machine workers became ill with Covid
  • Keeping fear at a minimum on the factory floor during Covid
  • Dealing with division between those who could work from home and those who had to come into the factory
  • Dealing with haulage driver shortages as a result of Brexit
  • Dealing with wheat shortages as a result of the Ukraine war
  • Needing to prepare the factory to be able to continue to operate in 40+ degree heat
  • Needing to increase prices three times in two years as a result of the rising cost of goods
  • Working out how to better support the wellbeing of staff through recent times. 
  • Working out how to continue to grow profit

Resilience 

To be able to survive, and even thrive during the challenges listed above, resilience is critical. 

What is at the heart of resilience? At the heart of resilience is how we deal with the content of our minds. Thoughts are flying through our heads every moment of every day. And it may feel that in recent times, there are more thoughts flying through, with more things to think about, creating more noise and more stress. 

So our ability to deal with the mind & thoughts becomes fundamental. We can no longer just deal with the crisis, we also need to look at and master the thinking we have about the crisis. 

Have you ever noticed that thoughts often get out of control? Thoughts sometimes immerse us in situations that never even happen. Sometimes, it feels like a movie is playing out in our minds, we worry about something we don’t need to worry about, or we make a story up about something that is not true. 

The key to developing resilience is shifting our relationship to the thoughts that come through the mind. This one thing can transform how we experience life. Coincidentally, this is at the heart of many ancient traditions, such as yoga, Buddhism and Hinduism. It is the art of noticing the mind’s content rather than being immersed in the mind’s content. It is about seeing the illusions as they get created. 

If you want more insight on this, you might like to watch this video, I’ll do a little reading on Unbounded’s Quality of Mind page. 

Mind and body practices should also become part of our daily life – practices to calm the mind, and exercise to shift the stress, which gets stored in the cells of the body. Working out or yoga or meditation can no longer be a nice-to-do when we have enough time. They become a vital part of living sustainably, performing well and thinking clearly.  

Navigating Complexity

How do we make decisions when there’s a business situation that hasn’t occurred before? Much of business has been used to relying too much upon the rational mind, using logic and data and history to make decisions. But what happens when there is no precedent as to what we do? What happens when we’re living into an unknown and uncertain future?

The mind loves certainty. It loves to be in control. Yet, the new leadership way needs to be learning to be comfortable and even in our element with uncertainty. More than ever, there is no right or wrong and there’s less reason to follow what we’ve done before. 

More than ever, there is also a need to shift our relationship to fear. Fear creates stress, nervousness, anxiety, rushed or poor decisions, and lesser leadership. We need to learn to be guided in our actions and behaviour, guided by accessing a deeper inner wisdom. 

Yes, it’s a whole new world. We talk about the new normal. The new normal means that as leaders we need to rip up our old thinking. The ways that we did things in the past may no longer be the best option. 

We might have been driven differently in the past too. Many people were primarily driven by making money, by maximising returns for shareholders. But that self-focused greed can no longer be the primary driver. We have to evolve our level of consciousness. We have to have holistic drivers in the form of people, planet and profit, and to be deeply aligned in focusing on all of them in balance. 

For those leaders who don’t change, they will continue to be exposed and will stand out more and more like a sore thumb. 

And for those leaders that succeed at this new game, they will be accelerating us towards a new world – Paul Polman formerly of Unilever and Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia are possibly two of the most well-known exemplary pioneers. 

The new world is a more beautiful one for sure, but requires each of us to change and become more holistically conscious. 

So what are you waiting for? Strap in and let the ride begin. 

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