One World Trade Center reopened this week, representing the resilience of New Yorkers and Americans to rebuild after the 9/11 attacks. Reaching this milestone illustrates how our young Nation faces challenges and overcomes tragedy, winning the admiration of people from around the world.
What ignites this spark of resilience?
In addition to our innate character traits, the literature supports two additional influences — our leaders and our communities.
Leadership resilience has a trickle down effect, guiding our response in the face of a crisis or tragedy. When disaster occurs, we look to leaders to define our common goal and take action for the common good.
Clarity After The 9/11 Attacks
In my experience, clarity plays an important role in leadership and resilience.
After the 9/11 attacks, I worked with leaders who had clarity. Any immediate imbalance was quickly overcome by a clear vision, purpose, direction and action plan.
The action plan developed for our international reinsurance company involved the efforts of key players in the organization and a unique damage analysis. Urgency, timing and accuracy coupled with intense shock and emotion made the challenge that much greater. We needed to maintain our composure while being jarred by the magnitude of what had occurred. Ultimately, we assessed the loss, which we were legally obligated to do. Within a few days, we reported our substantial loss reserves to the media and shareholders.
It is unlikely that I will experience that intense level of collaboration and resilience ever again. As an American working abroad, seeing my home country attacked, the support of resilient leaders and colleagues was crucial for me to carry out my own analysis of what had occurred with clarity. Initially off-balance, I regained my equilibrium due to their strength and support.
I learned first hand that clarity and a solid support network are fundamental aspects of maintaining resilience in time of crisis.
Resilience is not easy and requires a combination of character traits, including courage, strength, will, tenacity, discipline and faith.
There is an ongoing debate as to whether these character traits innate or learned.
DNA vs. The Environment
Are we pre-wired to be resilient or is resilience a result of environmental conditioning and learning?
Arguments can be made for both sides.
Regardless of who wins the argument, resilience requires a thoughtful approach to your overall health and well being in order to maintain a top-performance level. When you are called to action, you need to be ready physically and mentally.
If a leader is not fit, he/she will not be ready to think outside the box to handle what could become the new normal. The greater the clarity, the more likely you will overcome the challenge. If you are not clear, the people you lead will not know what steps to take.
Savvy leaders know that learning to be resilient is a life-long journey. When they are thrown off-balance by setbacks, challenges or changes, they take steps to center themselves emotionally and physically. Otherwise, they may not be fit to solve the problems at hand.
Your self-assessment or analysis should include:
- Your own strengths and weaknesses when solving vexing problems.
- Your network when it comes to productive teamwork.
- Your physical, mental and spiritual health.
You will not have time to do this assessment once the problem or crisis arises.
Resilient communities are better able to bounce back from disasters and disruptions in a sustainable way and maintain a good quality of life for all. They are better prepared for uncertainties and able to adapt to changing conditions.
From Hurricane Katrina to Super Storm Sandy, communities in America have learned to weather the storm. They cope with the help of ordinary people who step up to the challenge and become heroes. The healing process and the rebuilding may take some time. Eventually, the community will be revitalized and life will carry on under the new normal.
With early snowfall in some parts of the country this year, one must consider community preparedness efforts that may be needed if we experience a severe winter season.
Who will lead these preparedness projects?
Is your community ready to face potential challenges?
The leadership resilience journey is ongoing because it requires mental clarity, emotional fitness and physical fitness. Taking good care of oneself has significance here. Competency, stamina and perseverance are traits that underlie maximum sustained achievement. Whether they are innate or learned, these traits will help save companies, communities and lives. Preparedness is hard work but offers substantial rewards.
Successful leaders are resilient, making a determined effort to bounce back from problems or crises by finding solutions and implementing them.
Are you resilient leader?
Are you a resilient community?