A R.A.R.E. Leader Perspective on Resilient Leadership – People of Fate or Destiny
In his book entitled “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” American author and film producer Garth Stein wrote, “That which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny.”
Another best-selling author, S.L. Scott, opined in HuffPost, that “Fate is the life you lead if you never put yourself in the path of greatness…Destiny is your potential waiting to happen.”
Resilience is defined on Dictionary.com as elasticity, or the capability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched. If 2020 has been anything, it has been a year for most of us being bent, compressed, AND stretched. Yet many of us think that partial restoration to better conditions demonstrates resilience, which defies the definition of returning to the original state of things. This distinction matters because we, as leaders, usually function on a principle of continuous improvement; therefore, we are often satisfied to achieve an incremental gain in overcoming challenges.
We all know what happens when an unprecedented event, like COVID-19, devastatingly impacts everything in our lives. Schooling halts for our kids. Businesses close. Government agencies cutback. Many leisure activities cease altogether. It wasn’t long ago that only essential businesses and workers could openly travel. Now, we are once again experiencing traffic jams, busy restaurants, and open movie theatres as life is appearing to return to “normal,” albeit with face masks and distancing guidelines in tow.
For some individuals, families, and businesses, a sense of having bounced back from the worse days of shutdowns and spiking infection rates seem surreal. For many others, the likelihood of full restoration to pre-pandemic lifestyles diminishes with each passing day. Nonetheless, both of these groups would agree that the world, their nation, their state, their local communities, their families, and even I individually will emerge from the crisis in a very different ‘place’ about which very little is assured. Optimistically, we look forward to something better, but that perspective, while a good one to have in the face of tribulation, is not illustrative of resiliency.
Resilience is more than achieving an incremental level slightly better than the worse, but a restoration to the way things were before…fully restored. But I submit that the substance of things restored may not be in the same form as before, and as leaders, we will set the expectations which we later shall manage toward accomplishing full restoration. Here are some examples:
- If I was employed before the outbreak, I intend to be employed after. However, my original employer may not be my new employer. Substance same – form different.
- My old job may not have been essential before, but my new job might well be essential now. Substance same – form different.
- What one loses in the trials by fire might be unrecoverable to some extent, but a resilient nature will seek a suitable replacement to fill the emptiness of the former and to fulfill the desired purpose in the future. Substance same – form different.
Humans are highly adaptable creatures – learning, unlearning, and relearning in a constant cycle of discerning and meeting the needs of those we love and those we serve. Our knowledge, attitudes, priorities, and beliefs are refined by ordinarily surmountable challenges. But even in the face of insurmountable ones, our nature compels us to overcome these with such resolute as to forever avoid similar catastrophes in the future.
From family members and neighbors to coworkers and customers, resiliency is the trait that compels us to restore what we have lost, while our ambition for life manifests itself in gaining more than we had before. Unlike the resiliency of a business that is satisfied to recover exactly as it was before, human resiliency seeks a more flexible outcome, somewhere between moderately better to excessively better than before. Only our ambitions, not for ourselves but for those of others, propels us from a low bar of expectations to a higher one.
As R.A.R.E. leaders, we are expected to intentionally lean into full recovery and to not simply accept an incremental improvement over dire conditions. Our expectations are therefore set as excessive goals, so that the outcome, compromised in part by weaknesses and frailties of human beings, will result in or beyond full recovery. We are called to be and to lead people of destiny and not people of fate, as Scott has defined them. And so, I am reminded of a quote by my friend, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, who said, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”