By Janice Perkins, GC4W Thought Leader
The tension between hope and grit – what happens when resilience isn’t enough for today’s leaders?
It’s been a buzz word the past two years. Resilience. If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that successful leaders must be resilient. At this point, all I hear is blah blah blah resilience like Charlie Brown’s teacher. We are all burnt out; our tanks are empty. Resilience is not enough.
The definition of resilience means, “The act of leaping or springing back, or the act of rebounding; as the resilience of a ball or of sound”. Sure, we have bounced back over the last two years, but we have been sent back and forth like a ping pong match or a pinball machine. Resilience can win the race with one or two setbacks in a short run. But when you face continual prolonged stress and trauma, how can you keep moving forward?
To find our way out of the maze of uncertainty and constantly adapting workplace dynamics, leaders must apply something new that is actually something old. Hope. How do I know that hope is missing in myself or my work environment? Well, just look around for its antithesis – anxiety – and you can be certain hope is missing. In the Websters 1828 dictionary, hope means “a belief that it is obtainable. It implies some expectation of obtaining the good desired, or possibility of possessing it. Therefore, it always gives pleasure or joy, whereas wish and desire may produce or be accompanied with pain and anxiety. Confidence in a future event; the highest degree of well-founded expectation of good… the source of ineffable, unspeakable happiness.”
I can guarantee you that in looking around offices today, there is not an abundance of joy, confidence, expectations of good and ineffable happiness. Hope is a positive motivational state based on willpower and goal planning. A leader who possesses it inspires people and helps them believe in their goals. As a leader, you must rise above the daily stress and uncertainty and tap into a well of hope and begin to let it spread.
Building hope alongside the tension of grit is paramount in our high stress uncertain environment. Resilience means bouncing back to the original shape. None of us are going back to that old normal. It is gone and the new normal is changing like shifting sand beneath our feet daily. In order to withstand this current, grit is required to stand in tension with hope. Hope must be anchored to something, to someone. To stay positive and expectant, it requires a stubbornness to maintain and not give in to the tide of worry and anxiety.
Grit means the firmness of mind or spirit, unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger. Fortitude means the mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger or temptation courageously. The difference between fortitude and courage is that fortitude implies patience to bear continual suffering. Grit is the long term battle with something. Chronic illness, abuse, torture…and the pandemic. I’ve long said that stubbornness is the only character quality that babies are born with; you don’t have to teach it. It is unyielding. Grit requires a level of stubbornness that you see in a 1-year-old that does not want to eat those peas and throws them off the high chair at your face over and over again.
There is a tension that needs to exist between the softness and care of hope and the courageous stubbornness of grit. It is on that tightrope of tension that the path to overcoming takes place. It isn’t easy and involves fear. Your employees need to see both of these traits to follow you. You will need both of these traits in tension to continue to lead.
How do you learn these as a leader?
• Face it – Set your face like flint, and keep your focus forward, always up.
• Believe it – Belief in something outside yourself – community, charity, school, neighbor. Believe in something or someone who is doing good and join them.
• Encircle it – Find shelter. Get in your circle of friends, be open and vulnerable to the struggle and what you need. We resonate more of what we want when we are around more people that have what we want. Get around hopeful people.
• Expect it – Expect something good is coming and this season will end. Remind yourself of a season past that did. Make plans for the future and visualize them happening.
• Anchor to it – it’s not out there; it’s in here. Nothing moves in my life without it. This is the step that attaches the hope to your grit. The world cannot provide hope. It comes from inside you.
• Give it away – be a hope monster for someone else. The more we practice this and spread it, the more it can multiply.