7 Rituals of the Resilient Leader

7 Rituals Blog

“More than education, more than training, a person’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails” Harvard Business Review

We are experiencing a leadership crisis as organisations strive to do more with less.

Recent Gallup research shows that 51% of leaders are disengaged, and because they directly influence 70% of their team’s engagement, it is quickly evident how this constitutes a significant organisational problem.

Other research by Tony Schwartz and Harvard Business School of 19,000 employees globally, reveals that only 25% of employees believe that their leader models sustainable work practices. Those one in four that believe their leader “walks the talk” of placing equal emphasis on performance and wellbeing have been shown to be 55% more engaged, have 72% higher wellbeing, and 200% greater trust in their leader.

What can leaders do differently to cope better with change and uncertainty and be more effective?

1. LIVE YOUR ONE THING – schedule when and where to do the thing that keeps you centred and nurtures your soul

In the movie City Slickers, four friends from the big smoke are approaching middle age. Struggling with work, marriage, and life, they go on a cattle drive to reclaim their vitality and lives.

But they’re fish out of water around the horses and cattle, and find it hard to cope with camping out. When city slicker Mitch (Billy Crystal) is separated from the group with head cowboy Curly (Jack Palance), Mitch laments his place in the world, and expresses admiration for Curly’s life. To Mitch, Curley appears master of his domain. If a crisis occurs, Curly sorts it out. When he brings home the cattle after a long drive, his life makes sense.

Sensing Mitch’s dismay, Curly says: “Do you know what the secret of life is?”.

When Mitch says “No”, Curly holds up one finger:

“This. Just one thing – you stick to that and everything else don’t mean sh*t.”

Mitch replies “That’s great but what’s the one thing?”

“That’s what you have to figure out.”

When thinking about my one thing, I reflected that most of my days started at 5am with 30 minutes meditation, followed by a walk in the national park near our home. On my return, I’d plan my day – which often turned out to be a great one. I decided that my one thing was meditation – it was the centrepiece of the day for me.

Let me ask you: What’s your “one thing”?

I’ve asked this question hundreds of times in seminars around Australia. Responses include beach fishing twice weekly, jogging in the bush, bike riding, sitting down with the family for dinner at the same time each night, writing a to do list at the start of the day, gardening and walking my dog each morning.

Live your ONE thing – and make it your keystone ritual.

2. REFUEL DAILY – make time to eat well, rest well, and take 10,000 steps daily

Here’s proof

Leaders who make time for exercise, eating well, and resting well will always outperform others in the long term. A 30-minute brisk walk (or equivalent) significantly improves your mood after 2, 4, 8, and 12 hours compared to those who don’t exercise (Mayo Clinic 2008).

A NASA study of 4000 of their employees showed that those who took a 30-minute break for meditation, a nap, or doing something that refreshed them increased productivity by 35% and improved decision making by up to 50%, compared to those who didn’t (Wellbeing, Rath et al. 2010).

The Okinawan Island people from Japan are amongst the most vital and longest living in the world. Their diet is very high in vegetables/fruits/grains (85%) and fish (10%).

3. NURTURE SELF – schedule quality time each week for people that are good for you

Here’s proof

A 2008 Harvard study covering 30+ years of research and involving 12,000 people showed that the likelihood of your being happy is increased 15% if you have one happy person in your direct network. People who have three to four very close friendships are healthier, enjoy higher wellbeing and are more engaged in their work.

In 2009, a study of 140,000 people by the Gallup organisation revealed that those with the highest happiness-to-stress ratio spend 6 hours per day with people they like. This time includes time at work, at home, on the telephone, email, social media and other forms of communication.

Make sure you have quality time each week with at least two people who make you feel good about yourself.

A resilient leader also makes fostering a caring culture a priority.

4. PLAY TO STRENGTH – encourage those important to you to develop their top 5 strengths

Here’s proof

People who have the opportunity to use their top 5 strengths each day are six times more likely to be engaged in their work, and three times more likely to report high life satisfaction.

As a mentor or coach, if you ignore someone there is a 40% chance they will be disengaged, and if you focus on their weaknesses a 22% likelihood of disengagement. However, if you coach with strengths, only 1% will be disengaged (Strengths Based Leadership, Rath et al 2010).

Tribes who strongly agree that use their strengths each day are 38% more likely to be highly productive, 44% more likely to report high customer satisfaction scores, and 50% more likely to have high employee retention (Gallup research).

5. PROGRESS IS BETTER than perfection – celebrate and be grateful for small victories

Here’s proof

Writing down three things you are grateful for each day for one week stimulates a six month boost to your mood (Seligman et al 2002). When we do this, even if we have had a very challenging day, it forces us to focus on what we have, rather than on what is missing. It creates a prosperity mentality.

Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer from Harvard Business School, also found (through rigorous analysis of nearly 12,000 diary entries of hundreds of employees in several different organisations) that the most motivating factor for information workers is knowing they are making progress on meaningful work (Progress Principle, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, 2011).

6. ASK R U OK? – care for the person you are with – and if you are by yourself – that’s you

Here’s proof

How do we best help employees when a Gallup engagement poll covering 142 countries tells us that only 13% are actively striving (discretionary effort) to produce a great result for the organisation?

Evidence of the scale of this disengagement comes from Medibank research, showing that stress disorders and depression now account for 34% of lost productivity through absenteeism and presenteeism (when people are physically at work but not fully productive), despite 86% of those affected preferring to suffer in silence than discuss it with work colleagues.

The shocking conclusion: Many of your team are fighting hard battles with themselves, but you may never know this.

Since the 1970s’, Gallup has been researching and reporting on employee engagement. They can now accurately predict whether an employee is engaged by asking them just 12 questions – known as their Q12™. Of those 12 questions the one question which is most correlated with engagement is this:

“My supervisor or someone at work seems to care about me as a person.”

The greatest positive predictor of engagement is a manager or colleague who cares!

We must also be self-compassionate and, when alone, make sure we give our own wellbeing priority.

7. TRUE TO SELF? – ask weekly if you like yourself, life what you are doing, and how you are doing it – reset

Here’s proof

David McLelland, a psychology professor from Harvard, was fascinated by which qualities help people thrive. He developed a test that could predict, with great accuracy, which students would have a thriving career 20 years after graduation. Essential factors were that:

  • these people were not motivated to achieve social indicators of success, instead setting moderate goals that were meaningful to them (50:50 chance of success)
  • they daydreamed about achieving these goals
  • they engaged in both optimistic and pessimistic thinking
  • they sought advice from mentors before committing to that goal. (McClelland, Motivating Economic Achievement, 1969).

The evidence for leaders is clear – make your own mood a priority, so that you can help your tribe outperform, outlast and outmanoeuvre.

Download the 7 Rituals poster and enrol in a 21 day course at www.graemecowan.com.au

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Graeme Cowan is an author and speaker who shows leaders how to create rituals that build their resilience, mood, and performance. To download his speaking brochure click here. If you have questions about his availability or suitability for presenting to your organisation please email support@graemecowan.com.au or call +61 2 8005 0344

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