'I wish it need not have happened in my time,' said Frodo. 'So do I,' said Gandalf, 'and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'
Frodo, Gandalf, and their whole world grew from the mind of JRR Tolkein, whose imagination was shaped by his service in the First World War. Like his famous characters, Tolkein must have found himself wishing that things were otherwise as he and his generation were confronted with death and suffering on an epic scale. As our generation faces its own test in the shape of the COVID-19 pandemic, we too wish things were different. The disease, the nation-wide lockdown, and the uncertainty about what might happen next can all play on our minds as we swing between optimism and pessimism. But like Frodo, Gandalf, and Tolkein, our task is clear: to decide what to do with the time that is given us. It’s a time to develop and deploy that inner strength that we call resilience.
Resilience has been overused, almost to the point of cliché, but if we can forget its status as a buzzword beloved of thought leaders we can recover its enduring power. One of the best ways to do that is to look to those times when resilience has had to be a lived daily reality, like the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquakes. In research conducted for Resilient New Zealand, a study of businesses’ experiences of and contributions to resilience in that aftermath, Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel summed it up like this: “Resilience is positive. It is not limited to bouncing back. It is about adaptability and co-creating a new environment in adversity. It is thriving on adversity. It’s about seeing a crisis as an opportunity to do things that you thought you couldn’t have done before.”
The Resilient New Zealand research, and my own experience in leadership roles, suggests several resilience principles that can help us all to be more resilient in the coming weeks and months. In other posts, I’ve suggested how leaders could apply these principles to create strategies for resilient leadership and Scott Pilkington has written about resilience for businesses and the importance of adaptability during the pandemic.
Resilience can help us negotiate these challenging times, and even to thrive, but it’s not a panacea. Instead, resilience is about responding to risks and managing them when they can’t be removed. Sadly, the risks we’re all facing include the death of loved ones, and there may be great pain ahead for many of us. We can and should do as much as we can to guard against that possibility and to comfort those who suffer losses.
But when the crisis has passed, wouldn’t it be incredible if we found that the pandemic, with all the adversity and hardship it may bring, had made us more resilient—stronger, more caring, more connected, and better able to face the future. The virus may take much from us, but we do not need to let it take our resilience.
If you’d like to build your resilience during this time, feel free to get in touch to see how we can help you, whether that’s with leadership coaching and mentoring, advice on identifying your priorities and refining them in this changing environment, or to develop and deploy any of the other resilience principles above.
Answering questions like: How to improve your leadership? How to create a great team? Written for the New Zealand or Australian leader.
Follow us on LinkedIn