When it comes to resilient leadership, prudence is required.

Unfortunately, in much of today’s culture the word prudent has negative connotations and is synonymous with being overly cautious. But the truth is, prudence —meaning “seeing ahead, sagacity”—is key to innovative and resilient leadership.

I’ve been writing about leadership resilience and the steps leaders take to overcome setbacks and crises.

In his book, The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumphs (Portfolio/Penguin, 2014), Ryan Holiday suggests three steps leaders can use to defeat setbacks:

  1. A mindset or perception on how to view the situation.
  2. The motivated action plan on how to address the specific issues.
  3. An inner drive or will that keeps the mindset and action plan going.

Solutions can be derived and put into place when the mindset of leadership teams are in sync. But a careful and deliberate method is needed. Taking action for the sake of action often makes things worse. Action is not needed. Prudent action is.

“Don’t just do something; stand there.”  ~ Producer Martin Gabel

Leaders who follow the most deliberate and manageable process are the most successful. Trying to slay the entire beast with one sword thrust is detrimental. Gradual, proportional steps are best, tackling one sub-issue at a time. This requires discipline, and it must come from the leader.

The downturn in Kodak’s analog photography business exemplifies a leadership plan that didn’t fully respond to the threats of disruptive technologies. Legacy products were not phased out in time to make way for new ones. Innovation wasn’t ramped up enough to transition the company. An effective, systematic strategy was not implemented. The company is a fragment of its former self.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20. But it’s an opportunity to learn and plan.

When setbacks occur, resilient leaders keep everyone focused. In times of crises, staff can get anxious and want to jump ahead too soon. (It’s just like driving in the fog: we unintentionally speed up, trying to get out of it.) When talking about this with my coaching clients, we discuss how important it is for managers to focus on the solution, trust the process, and get the help and support they need. People can struggle with shaking off disappointment or a sense of failure. Some may even want to quit. So as a leader, your task is to encourage, empower, and escort.

Many crisis situations are not the time for ideal, but for making due. They are a time for rolling with the punches. A leader aiming for ideal solutions will be frustrated and will frustrate their team.

Instead, consider non-traditional approaches and prepare teams to step out of their comfort zones and find solutions through a side door. This can be a humbling experience, and that’s often helpful.

Teaching the staff to embrace the struggle brings out the best in them. A leader who takes things seriously, but holds them loosely, demonstrates that sage wisdom.

With the best action plan, you can direct everyone to an effective resolution in ways that were never initially thought possible.

What do you think? Do you have processes or plans in place for dealing with crisis? How have you developed your best action plans? You can call me at 561-582-6060; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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