Resilient Leadership – Round 9: 15 – 19 June 2020

“In this time of unknowns, we often look for a box to check, a mission. I get it. I just think that mission needs to be repurposed.”

How do we keep the focus on meaningful outcomes, as opposed to somewhat arbitrary targets or numbers that lack relevance without an understanding of our purpose? In Round 9, more than a few of our participants were asking out loud: How are we going to come out of this in a way that truly makes a difference?

Making a difference is not only pertinent to longer term recovery. Sometimes day-to-day decisions during a crisis can be driven by numbers and data that on the surface seem helpful but in reality may ignore – or even exacerbate – the underlying conditions upon which the crisis rests, One Chief Resilience Officer explained: “I see everyone is obsessed with testing numbers, and I get that. We need to test 3,100 people a day in our county in order to re-open the economy, but zeroing in on that and not checking ‘Who is getting tested?’ is how people get left behind. Our leadership is very focused on the numbers, but we need to dig deeper, to find where are they coming from, or what their ethnicity is. I have faith in my leadership that we can get there, but it’s going take some conversation and that is difficult in email or quick meetings.”

In short, the numbers are only as helpful in building resilience as the thinking behind them, which requires a vision and a focus on long-term outcomes. What can sometimes get in the way of achieving these outcomes, as one of our participants noted, is: “…the hamster wheel of how do I get re-elected?” as opposed to bold leadership that says, “No, we’re going to do it differently. What’s it going to take for us to be stronger, better, safer? What do we need to do? What are the policies we need to change?”

Where short term thinking can hinder societal success, another corporate leader observed a similar loss of the larger objective within organizations: “There is always a concern that the level of commitment of certain teams or team members to their agenda is higher than to the overall agenda, and there are business reasons why that would be the case. Totally understandable. I’m in the position where I do not have to care about the specific focus of various project options, I simply want the best and most ambitious project to proceed.”

We might conclude that a key feature of resilient leadership is the ability to step back, put personal, siloed, or short-term successes aside (a theme we touched on in Round 6), keep laser-focused on the broader mission, and set out the immediate steps that have a good chance of getting us there.

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