In resilience

With the kinds of horrific violent attacks we have seen in France – with the kind of fear and stress we are living with globally – it is high time for us to cultivate resilience on all levels.

As leaders we must be aware of the tone we set during times of fear.  Leaders are role models for the behavior they wish to see in the people they lead. If we are not conscious of our own foibles, our own fears, and our own bias, we can demonstrate behaviors that damage our organizations. Instead of building our resilience, we can tear it down. 

In global organizations resilience isn’t only about developing our own personal ability to bounce back from a crisis or to learn from a challenging experience – real resilience requires us to practice respect, inquiry, and empathy for the experiences of the people we work with.  It requires us to lead consciously and with an eye for how to help others cope with the strange and difficult range of experiences we need to contend with.

I’m writing this post on assignment in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world. This is a country that has ferociously condemned the violence of ISIS and other terrorist groups, and a country in fear that the cancer of violence will take root here. I fear for the world that the attacks are labeled “Islamic” and not ruthless murder by violent extremists. 

We as humans tend to create patterns out of what we see. We quickly categorize experiences and people. Groups become the “Other” without being seen from a human perspective. We see the horrific violence as an “Us versus Them” paradigm, and we are quick to name “Them” in the best way we know. When we have only a vague understanding of other cultures, we can group people together as if everyone is a part of the “Other” that we must defend from.  

When there is violence, horrific violence, we are at our most black and white because our amazing human brains are ready to protect us from danger. If we can categorize it we believe we can control it, rid ourselves of it, kill it, or avoid it. If we categorize this latest wave of killings as Islamic Terrorism we can wrap it into something we think we understand. But violent extremists are not the Islamic world as a whole and it is dangerous to create a story that villainizes millions of innocent people.  

In our original research as an organization we’ve found that the stories we tell are at the heart of our resilience. When we tell stories of triumph and positivity and of collective action and shared success, we broaden and build those qualities. When we tell stories of fear, of problems without solutions, of our inability to succeed, we broaden and build that instead.  In times of great fear leaders who can build a narrative of strength, of togetherness, and of respect as we move forward together will bring a great message to their teams who may be worried for their safety. 

In looking for someone to quote about this I found many incredible articulate articles…but one post stood out to me, penned by the ubiquitous Russell Brand. To read the whole post check this out:

The only answer is in the territory of the spirit, in the deep interconnectedness within us all. In the acceptance that all action on this plane is the manifestation of an inner realm and violence of an inner malady. Our only hope is compassion and love. To marshall vigorously the only terror and violence we can absolutely control; that which is within us individually.

When we are afraid of the “Other” it is impossible to get work done or to cultivate our shared accomplishments across geographic, ethnic, and religious boundaries.  

In order to be resilient in a violent world, we must remember what we share. We love our families. We pray for peace.