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Resilience must be valued at all times, not just in crisis

Fiona Campbell has it.  Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne has it.  Nadeem Sarwar has it.  Grant Currie has it.  Ryan O’Rorke and Assean Sheikh both have it.  We all need it.  Resilience.

Resilience is a word often used, yet little understood.  Right now, we crave resilience: for our children, for our teams, for our communities, for our firms, for our society, for our planet, for ourselves.

The Oxford English Dictionary definition is:

  1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
  2. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

When is everything is stable, trundling onwards, we don’t value resilience, we take it for granted.  The status quo, the predictability of life encourages us to ignore it.  Our careless attitude to resilience shows up in the big issues, like our sluggish acknowledgement of the impact of climate change to the everyday things, like getting enough sleep, exercise, daily learning.

Yet in times of stress, of uncertainty resilience leaps to the foreground.  It turns up everywhere.  In the ability for our institutions and systems to cope with overload, disruption: from the NHS to supply chains to remote work.  In the ability for us as people to cope with overload, disruption: triggering the focus on wellbeing, mental health, skills for the future.

We have it wrong – resilience is not a response to crisis. We must learn to understand and value resilience at all times. We must nurture our own and others resilience.  We must become resilient leaders.

It is important not to associate resilience with being risk averse, safe.  Resilience is not a defensive response.  Putting up the barricades, cutting back investment, over control, narrowing our networks creates rigidity not elasticity.   It may feel counter intuitive.  When we need resilience most, we must step forward not back.  To build resilience we need more exploring, experimenting, embracing diversity of ideas and experience, listening, observing and adapting.  We should think deeply about ourselves, our tribes and on an holistic higher systems level.

Even in the best of times, entrepreneurial leaders, changemakers and innovators have to exhibit bucketloads of resilience.  They need resilience to weather the bumps in the road, the scepticism of friends, the loneliness, the self-doubt.  To keep going.

Whether it be Fiona Campbell, from the Association of Scotland’s Self Caterers, fighting for the sustainability and recovery of her sector in the depths of lockdown.  Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne, Genius Food, breaking two ovens and a magimix to invent a gluten free bread for her son and now the world. Nadeem Sarwar, Phlo, forsaking a safe banking career to create the UK’s leading online pharmacy.  Grant Currie, Virtual FM, enduring business failure and personal tragedy to go and create jobs and turn facilities management on its head.  Ryan O’Rorke and Assean Sheikh, Flavourly, from online beer sales being a “silly idea” 8 years ago to completing their 1,000,000 order this week.  That takes resilience.

Just like entrepreneurial leadership itself, we can learn to be more resilient.  As Professor Scott Taylor of Babson College puts it, having studied the neuroscience behind it, “Resilience is not something we have or don’t have—I believe resilience is something we find.” It turns out, resilience is a central capability of effective leaders.

We all have so much to learn on resilience – best to start now.

Sandy Kennedy

CEO, Entrepreneurial Scotland Foundation

The Herald, 29 Apr 2021

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