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Leadership Resiliency

Redford is old. We rescued him when he was just over a year old. This Fall he will be 13. For a Golden, that’s old. And while he’s still in good health, he moves slowly these days.  Despite his age, he’s still teaching me about leadership.  Let me explain.

Two months ago Mickey came into Redford’s life. Approximately five, Mickey is still a young and energetic dog. While no longer a puppy, he sure acts like one sometimes.

Mickey took one of Redford’s chew toys again this evening. Redford’s not up to protecting his turf like he used to be, and when he wasn’t watching, Mickey snatched the toy from Redford’s doggie bed. But not for very long. Mickey bores easily. He gets quickly distracted. He’s off to the next thing.

You may have seen this quote circulating around the Internet recently: “The difference in winning and losing is most often . . . not quitting.” Attributed to Walt Disney, I thought of that quote when I saw Redford with his toy a few minutes ago.

I don’t know if Redford is our alpha dog anymore. He’s definitely not the quickest. Mickey runs laps around him. But you know what Redford is? Resilient. While he may not win the tug-of-war, he still ends up with the toy simply because he doesn’t give up. Once Mickey has moved on, Redford gets his toy. And his way.

How does that apply to you and me, fellow leader? What can it teach us about our leadership? I’ve heard lots of folks say that a leader needs to exude optimism. It goes something like this: “The troops take their lead from the sense they get of their leader’s optimism, so leaders need to be the most optimistic people in their organizations.” Large-and-in-charge. Every day is a great new day, etc. etc. etc.

I’ve also heard lots of folks say that leaders are always upbeat. Part of what makes them so great is that they always see the silver lining in the storm clouds. The cup is always at least half full.

I don’t fully agree.

I think good leaders don’t need to be overly optimistic. I think what they do need is a relentless resiliency. The ability to bounce back. Take one on the chin and stay on their feet. Go down, but not for the count.

Get up the next morning, no matter how bad the day, and show up again. Keep on keeping on. Always have their eyes up, believing tomorrow is another day.

The best leaders are not Pollyannas. They just don’t give up.

Where do you need a dose of leadership resiliency?