Resilient Leadership: Clarity of Direction

Businesses who survive and thrive through periods of adversity and rapid change are the ones who have resilient leaders who drive them forward.

Leaders need four key elements to be resilient and effective under pressure. Each week over the next four weeks we will focus on one of the four elements through the lens of the Resilient Leaders Elements Model – the first is Clarity of Direction.

I come from the world of elite sport where most athletes are inherently goal focused, the targets are clear and from a young age they discover the power of a vision. When I was 8 years old I declared to family and friends that I wanted to become an Olympian and without realising it I was creating clarity of direction for myself and the people supporting me.

Clarity of Direction is the first element in the Resilient Leaders Elements model and is all about having a vision and a realistic strategy for the future, communicating effectively to align people to your vision and having the determination to keep going in the face of adversity.

At 8 years old I didn’t have a realistic strategy for achieving it but I did visualise it – imagining myself competing with the Great Britain Olympic kit on, I pictured myself winning races and it felt so real that it gave me the motivation and belief that it could happen. Subconsciously I was building the reserves of determination that I would need for the inevitable adversity that would come my way.

Having clarity of direction keeps you motivated and focused, and when communicated effectively it is also motivational for the people around you. When your team is under pressure, if they have a clear strategic intent they will understand why they’re being asked to do something. If we have clarity of where we’re going and why, when adversity hits we’re able to see through the fog of events and it gives us the motivation to keep persevering. Clarity of direction helps filter out distractions and reminds us what we should remain focused on.

A Unifying Purpose

Of course as a young athlete I was never going to do achieve my ambitions on my own and in the beginning my team included my family, a few training partners and my coach. I couldn’t make them buy-in to my mission but I could inspire them to join me on my journey.

As a leader in business you can use your vision and strategy to inspire others to join you and use your actions and behaviours to demonstrate what is possible. We know from research that the strength of our resilience is based on the strength of our connections. If you can gather a cohesive team around you and create a unifying purpose, when the pressure is on, you are more likely to thrive. Given the challenges we’re experiencing today, now is the time to ramp up collaboration and include widely.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

However, don’t get disheartened if your people don’t seem engaged in the strategic intent, it could be that your message wasn’t interpreted as you intended it. We all have different communication preferences and we interpret messages in different ways, so the most effective thing you can do is to communicate regularly, repeatedly and in a variety of ways so that people fully understand the priorities and main focus at any given time. Find ways to keep people informed, engaged and aligned, even when things change.

To summarises, as a leader, when you have strategic intent, a unifying purpose and determination this is the impact:

‘People know where they are going, why they are going there and know you are determined to succeed. Each individual can work out what to do for themselves in order to get to the end point.’

Next week, we focus on the importance of Awareness, an awareness of our own and others motives, attitudes, strengths and weaknesses.

If you would like to understand more about your own strengths and areas of development in relation to the 4 elements I encourage you to take this free RLE lite assessment.

For more information on this subject and our Resilient Leader’s open programme, please visit The Resilient Leader’s Toolkit | Beyond the Barriers or get in touch.

Published: Tuesday 19 January 2021
Written by: Anna Hemmings, OLY, MBE.