Over the last few years, I’ve noticed that the leaders I work with describe the world around them as tumultuous, chaotic, and complicated. It is a world full of interruptions and disruptions.
It is a world that now demands resilience from each one of us on a daily basis.
But what does resilience look like in this embattled modern world, especially for everyday leaders?
I’d like to share an example or two of leaders who for me embody the essence of this kind of resilience. Harold Milner was a well-known opera singer. After years on the stage, he realized that he knew how to teach voice so much better than he himself had been taught. He reinvented himself, dived in, and in short order became one of the most sought after voice coaches by politicians as well as singers. Peter Block, author of numerous books, reads across an amazingly wide range of topics. He does it to stimulate his mind. As a result, he has responded to changing social needs with extraordinary resilience and insights.
When I look at Milner, Block and others, I see the characteristics they held in common. There are three. First, they know who they are. They have taken the time (not necessarily years, but definitely time) to understand who they are in this world and how they should bring that to the world. While challenging themselves to do more and more, they never lose their inherent understanding of their individual being.
Second, they have deep knowledge in some area of their lives. Sometimes it is in their professional field. Sometimes it is in some esoteric subject. But in each case, the knowledge they have is solid and deep. Yet, each one continues to dig deeper, exploring the very edges of their knowledge and then some. Even when they find themselves in unfamiliar areas, they seem to know they will never get lost, because they have a tether that leads them back ‘home.’ Their deep knowledge serves them at those moments when there are no familiar landmarks.
Third, and most strikingly, they are insatiably curious. Pushing the edges of what they know, they often jump into totally different and new areas. A management expert reads books on architecture. A scientist creates jewelry to gain more understanding of the fine art of turning hard elements into soft beauty. A writer constantly studies her garden, listening for new ideas for writing through the silent messages from the plants and trees. Curiosity is like a constant prod to go just a bit further so that you can see the next horizon. Or like a prod that pushes you to look more deeply into the why, the where, the when, the who, and the how of what you see.
What do you see as being crucial to resilience today?