By Lee Ellis
Going through tough times that seem impossible. Pushing through a challenge with unrelenting determination. Simply not giving up when you want to call it quits. Doing things that you don’t feel like doing in order to achieve your goal. What personally comes to mind when you think about resilience? What’s your frame of reference?
Resilience was a matter of life and death for the Vietnam POWs. For our families back home, resilience was the only way they could have a life.
There were numerous reasons we POWs were able to resist, endure torture, and bounce back. First of all, we were a competitive and optimistic group. But much of what enabled us to hang in there for 5, 6, 7, or 8 years related to our sense of duty. Duty, the indispensable attribute taught in virtually every leadership training program, is built on a foundation of faithfulness, character, responsibility, and commitment.
We were resilient because we were faithfully committed to each other and to our country. Back at home, Sybil Stockdale’s sense of duty as a wife, mother, and chairman of the League of POW/MIA Families empowered her to bounce back.
My parents, Molene and Leon, and my brother, Robert, and his wife, Pat, took it as their duty to support me and other POW/MIAs. They made speeches, wrote letters, gave interviews, and worked unceasingly, doing everything possible to engage our community, and indeed all Northeast Georgia, in our cause.
The Fuel of Resilience at Work
“Resilience empowered by duty is vital to all organizational success.” [Tweet This]
It takes many different forms in response to various needs. In the face of an economic slump or competitive challenge, a business leader may have to struggle tenaciously for profitability, and even survival. An organizational layoff may force the remaining employees to persevere under a heavier workload. A manager with an unprofessional boss may have to shield other employees from irrational decisions and hostile behaviors, while still remaining loyal.
One COO with whom I worked had to navigate through a professional minefield. She wanted to remain completely loyal to her boss, but she found herself regularly challenging him about questionable decisions that were undermining the foundation of the organization and draining energy from the leadership team. Eventually, however, the CEO’s poor judgment crossed the line in several areas, resulting in his removal.
Because this COO had exhibited such a strong sense of duty and loyalty throughout this period, the organization continued to perform at a high level during a very stressful time. As is often the case, the resilience of this one person was crucial to the resilience of the organization.
3 Insights About Resilience
What are the critical points of resilience that are needed during challenging times to emerge with victory?
- Life is a battle, and we all get knocked down. The challenge is to stay in the battle and fight to get back on your feet. It’s hard to defeat someone who won’t quit.
- You must believe in yourself. There are cycles and seasons, and we all go through ups and downs. You must believe that you can work through the challenges that come your way.
- You can’t fight this battle alone. POWs learned that isolation is a powerful weapon of the enemy. Have people around you who will encourage you—speaking truth into your life about who you are and how valuable you are.
Preparing for Resilience
“To survive and thrive as a leader, you must build resilience before it’s needed!” [Tweet This]
Here’s a list to review and consider which of these areas need work for you or your leadership team –
– Roots – Forgiveness
– Values – Deepest Desires
– Faith – Vision for the Future
– Role Models – Past Experiences
– Determination – Others
– Courage – Gratitude
My new Resilience Checklist infographic goes deeper on each item in this list. If you gain personal insight on any of these items, you’ll be more resilient when facing the next challenge.
You Must Bounce Back
Authentic leaders know that life is difficult. They expect to get knocked down, and they have the proper attitude and outlook to persevere. You have a choice about how you will respond to difficulties. Confront the brutal realities of your situation, but never give up hope. Develop your plan, connect with your support team, and bounce back. Please share your stories and experience below.
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Read More on Inspirational POW Resilience
Chapter 6 in Lee’s award-winning book, Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton, goes deeper on the principle of resilience and bouncing back.
Read gripping stories on how the Vietnam POWs bounced back over and over again to eventually return home with honor.
Purchase Your Copy – special rates available for bulk purchases, too.