Strengthening Resiliency through Adaptive Leadership

By Jennifer Downing

It’s times like these when our capacity for resilience (or lack thereof) makes itself abundantly clear. The community is relying on leadership to navigate the myriad of challenges of COVID-19, yet our physical and mental limits are being overwhelmed by information, hard choices, and restrictions. Our emotional health is taking a hit from stress, fear of the unknown, and disappointment (you put a lot of effort into those events you had to cancel and it just sucks). How do we persevere and lead our organizations and communities in the face of such hardship? 

We spend a lot of time exploring this very question and practicing tactics for developing resilience in our annual program. We know that resilient individuals not only weather the storm and endure personally, but they are better positioned to lead their communities through a crisis. And it’s not just about survival – the mode we all seem to be in right now – it’s about thriving. Individuals and organizations that are truly resilient emerge from a crisis wiser, stronger, and more capable. They have an ability to view times of crisis as an inflection point and opportunity for change, renewed entrepreneurialism, and reinvention. We can all draw wisdom from a quote by philosopher, Eric Hoffer, which is featured in our Positive Leadership curriculum at LSC: “In times of change, learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” 

At Leadership SouthCoast, we are doing our best to see the opportunities that lie beneath the surface of this crisis. With an adaptive mindset, we are gathering information, seeking input and advice (it’s okay to admit that you don’t have all the answers and that you’re a little scared), and trying to make meaning out of difficult times. With this challenge before us, we are taking time to return to the big picture, to reflect on where we’ve been, and to envision where we want to go. We are celebrating our successes, but also acknowledging our challenges, thinking hard about what conditions led to this point, and what lessons can we learn. I don’t mean to sound like we’ve got this in the bag; on the contrary, we’ve had our fair share of down days lately. Like many local organizations, we are changing the way we deliver our program (and it’s been a learning curve), cutting our budget, and making other crisis management plans for an uncertain future. 

We have gained strength by tapping into an amazing network of community leadership programs from across the country. The support, sharing, and camaraderie we’re providing each other has been invaluable. As we plan for the months ahead, LSC will continue to cultivate resilience through the values, engagement, and collective knowledge of its participants, alumni, and community partners. We’re optimistic that together, we’ll emerge from this difficult experience a more connected and empowered network. #WeAreInThisTogether #LeadershipMatters #engageeducateempower #leadershipsouthcoast

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