Food for thought

Resilient Leadership (good idea for a book title?)

by Bill Crombie

I’d say ‘yes’, and not only because I’m one of the foreword contributors. Here’s what I wrote:

‘I like to think of myself as a resilient sort of fellow. I mean, I grew up in Glasgow in the 1970s –  resilience came as part of the standard-issue survival package. And I’ve had my share of setbacks in my life, same as anyone else, and bounced back quickly, unscathed and occasionally a bit wiser from the experience every time. 

However, 18 months ago I discovered that nothing prepares you for hearing the words, five seconds into a clinical examination, ‘that’s a melanoma and it has to come out right now’. 

This sort of thing happens to other people – it certainly does not happen to me – and so I found myself in a strange sort of detached limbo as I hung around waiting for the hastily-arranged surgery later that morning. The procedure was done under local anaesthetic and I listened to the discussion as the lump of tissue and skin was being examined by the specialist. This all took place in Germany, and my German is better than I like to let on - and so I was able to follow the gist, which was that things were not looking too clever and an express full biopsy was initiated.

So I did what a lot of people, especially men, do in such circumstances. I kept the potential seriousness of the situation as secret as possible. I pushed everyone away, and I self-researched the possible outcomes. And I mentally prepared myself for the worst-case outcome while hoping for the best. The best analogy I can find is that it was a bit like rolling a dice. If I got a 1, I had dodged the bullet. 2 would be OK as well – skin cancer treatment is way more effective than even a decade ago. 3 or even 4 would mean some tough times but with a very decent ten year survival rate. 5 would be very unpleasant and with unattractive odds of survival. 6 and it would be time to get my affairs in order and start saying cheerio to everyone.   

All very interesting – but what’s the connection with the book?

Well, I quickly found that my strategy was not working well, and I began to consider the key themes of resilience, which you will find in this book. Everyone will find his or her own most effective resilience components and possible strategies here – and I can testify that if you work on your chosen topics you can improve your resilience. My big one was ‘acceptance’ – it took me a long time to accept the situation, the new world in which I now live (a world of factor 50 sun lotion and hats). It was not until I had concluded ‘OK, it is how it is – what can I now do to make the best of this new situation?’ – that I was able to move on to my selection of other topics and strategies - focusing on a positive outcome, and getting better at asking for help – using the many resources available to me. Karsten’s book makes the whole subject of resilience understandable and – equally important – it makes the subject accessible. Anyone can read it, take away personal key insights and then apply them to good effect.   

When my dice stopped rolling it landed on ‘1’. I get to roll the dice periodically now, but being on the ‘at risk’ radar scope, the dice is loaded in my favour. Or at least that’s how I now look at it.’

That was written some time ago, I’ve rolled ‘1’ each time since and I don’t have to roll the dice again for another three months. I was re-reading the last part of the book the other day – How can resilience be enhanced? – and it occurred to me afterwards that reading this chapter was a bit like going to the gym for a workout (but for the mind rather than the body). I really felt in better mental shape and as ready as I can be for whatever life has in store for me.

Improved resilience …. the perfect start to 2017?

Bill Crombie is a qualified Master Business Coach and one of the Managing Partners of Leadership Choices, an international consultancy focusing on leadership development at Top Management level. He is also Managing Director of Leadership Choices UK. He is used to working in challenging multi-cultural environments and he has carried out assignments in most European countries, the USA, the Middle East and the Far East.

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