The ability to remain agile and flexible as a leader in what has been termed a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world is of paramount of importance in the current economic climate. Leaders and employees, it seems, work against a backdrop of uncertainty. The HSE Work related stress, anxiety and depression statistics in Great Britain for 2015 make grim reading:
The total number of cases of work related stress, depression or anxiety in 2014/15 was 440,000 cases, a prevalence rate of 1380 per 100,000 workers.
The number of new cases was 234,000, an incidence rate of 740 per 100,000 workers.
2014/15 was 9.9 million days lost due to stress. This equated to an average of 23 days lost per case.
In 2014/15 stress accounted for 35% of all work related ill health cases and 43% of all working days lost due to ill health.
The main work factors cited by respondents as causing work related stress, depression or anxiety (LFS, 2009/10-2011/12) were workload pressures, including tight deadlines and too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support.
Stress isn’t going anywhere
Stress, is one factor of the modern workplace that isn’t going to disappear anytime soon. It has always been part of the modern workplace, however, increasing levels of stress are something of a more recent phenomena. Whereas organizations are currently observing a general decrease in absenteeism (CIPD 2016) the continued rise in stress related absenteeism shows no sign of abatement. The age old tradition of ‘boss bashing’ and complaining to colleagues only serves to hinder and diminish our ability to bounce back from stressful events (Siber, 2005). Nietzsche’s claim that “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me strong” does not hold true for today’s workforce. If leaders are to remain agile in a VUCA world, we need a new solution.
Levi, 2000 EU Guidance on Work Related Stress defines resilience as “The ability to mitigate the effects of stress i.e. factors such as emotional, cognitive, physiological, behavioural responses to work, the work environment or the organisations”. Building organisational capacity to develop resilience is key for leaders to meet these challenges head on in such a turbulent landscape. But how to do it?
Develop your emotional intelligence.
Relationships are key and will keep you sane. Make sure you have a support network both in and outside of work. Get to know your department, your team, those around you. Find out what makes them tick and continue to build rapport with those around you.
Define your purpose.
Is your leadership your calling? Is this what you were put on the earth to do? Know why you are doing what you do every day, making sure your values are in alignment with your actions. Create your very own mission statement and live your values.
Make time to reflect.
Protect regular time to reflect upon how you operate as a leader and as an organisation. Use the time to reflect on where you are now and where you want to be, identifying the gap in the middle. Consider systems, processes and procedures, are they working? Can they be improved? Reflect upon what’s happening in your field internationally, who are the thought leaders? Is there an opportunity to partner with them or learn from new systems, processes or theories?
Don’t stop learning.
When you’re faced with leadership chaos, personal development is often the first thing to fall by the wayside. Make time to learn, keeping yourself ahead of the curve. It’s not wasted time, it’s an investment in yourself.
Embrace failure and learn from it. Ditch the blame game and focus instead on learning information – learn from what went wrong. What processes and procedures worked? What didn’t? How can you learn from them? What can you tweak, change or do differently next time? Failure is an opportunity to refine and remain agile. Use it and embed it in your culture.
To talk to us about resilient leadership, VUCA or anything else that takes your fancy, contact us at email@example.com