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Resilience in Leadership – From ‘how’ to ‘why’ and back to ‘how’

How can we measure resilience?This is the article number eight in our series on leadership; the last one. We will focus again on the fourth essential element: resilience: ‘The ability to respond effectively to unforeseen problems’. This time we will construct a benchmark for resilience. What are the ,eta programs invo;ved in resilience? And I will point out where they show up in the MindSonar profile.

MindsetIn the first six articles we covered three essential elements of leadership: vision, strategy and engagement

Leadership behaviors result from a leadership mindset. Mindset includes how someone feels, their attitudes and beliefs and their thinking style. You obviously need a special mindset to endeavour the huge strategic changes – and take the financial, social and emotional risks – involved in resilience. What does this mindset look like in terms of meta programs?Change!The most obvious meta program involved in resilience, is ‘change’ thinking (from the trio ‘maintenance’ versus ‘development’ versus ‘change’). Or could it be development? Development is doing the same thing, but doing it differently: faster, more intensely, better, et cetera. Change is doing it completely differently. Development is evolution, change is revolution, a ‘turnaround’. In business, as in most areas in life, there is always an element of development in change. When reforming Danish Oil and Natural Gas, Poulsen stayed with energy. In that sense he started a development. He didn’t say: let’s forget about energy. Let’s focus on yoga training. He developed new ways to generate energy. So at a general level it was development: keep generating energy, but in a different way. But certainly on an operational level it was change: forget about gas, let’s go for wind.From mismatching to matchingOrganisations take radical turns when circumstances force them. Like the price of your main product dropping by 90%, or China producing household appliances with an acceptable quality for a quarter of your cost, or your main market suddenly slamming high taxes on your product.

Seeing a positive future in a crisisResilient leaders do two main things in a crisis. First of all, they see the crisis as an opportunity for fundamental change. In a crisis other stakeholders are more open to new directions. It is obvious that something needs to change. Maintaining the old strategy will eventually lead to bankruptcy. Hence the opportunity for radical changes that probably hadn’t been acceptable without that crisis. Dominic Cummings, the (in)famous British political strategist has said: “Things are possible, and they are especially possible when there is a crisis.” Seeing the opportunities in a crisis is an expression of the meta program ’matching’. Focussing on what is good, right or correct. What is special about this matching, is that it is done in a context where most people are mismatching (focussing on what’s bad or wrong). People tend to focus on the negative when there is a major threat. The human brain has a tendency to give more weight to negative experiences than positive ones. “Our brains are wired to scout for the bad stuff and fixate on the threat” (Rick Hanson). The resilient leader manages somehow to keep this negative focus in check and focus on possibilities.Focus on options. From ‘away from’ to ‘towards’The second thing a resilient leader does in a crisis, is focus on options. They see a future that not many people see. Under Poulsen, f.i., Ørsted embarked on what many experts thought of as an impossible mission. The company invested in offshore wind power, but it was too expensive, the energy produced was more than double the price of energy generated by onshore wind. So the next strategic goal was to make offshore wind energy cheaper. 

In this second aspect of resilience, we see an interplay of five different meta programs:

  1. Towards (goals you want achieve rather than disasters you want to avoid or escape from)
  2. Options (Focus on possibilities)
  3. Future (Seeing those possibilities in the future)
  4.  Internal reference (Believing in your vision of change, even when others don’t – and even though they have a point).
  5. Internal locus of control (Believing that the new goals can be achieved).

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