Newswise — For any leader managing a corporation, small business, school or non-profit, crises are inevitable. Dell Inc., for example announced last week that it will cut about 10 percent of its workforce. The ability to help a business or organization bounce back from adversity is critical for any successful leader, says Jerry Patterson, Ph.D., an author and educational leadership professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Patterson has researched and written extensively on resilience. He currently conducts workshops around the country on resilience in leadership. Patterson lists four profiles of how leaders interpret adversity:
The Unrealistic Pessimist " They see the glass as empty rather than half full and they doubt that it's possible to put water in the glass. They don't believe they can make a difference, they overstate the magnitude of problems and see themselves and their organization as victims. They typically blame others for the problems.
The Realistic Pessimist " They see the glass as half empty, focusing on problems rather than opportunities. They take a dim view of being able to make a difference. They constantly think, "if only." They may take some responsibility for the problem, but believe that others share most of the blame.
The Realistic Optimist " They see the glass as half full. They are resilient. They acknowledge the obstacles and seek out bad news, believing they can use the information to make better decisions and seize opportunities in the midst of adversity. They accept responsibility for contributing to the problem.
The Unrealistic Optimist " They expect the glass to be full and overflowing. They minimize the reality of the adversity and insist that best case outcomes will always happen. When budget cuts are imposed, they expect to continue as they've always done. Staff morale becomes low because they're pressured to do more with less. These leaders fail to properly assess the causes of problems.
Patterson has identified six strengths of a leader who is a resilient, realistic optimist:
1) Resilient leaders work to understand what is happening because of the adversity, including how they may have contributed to the adversity.
2) They are positive, believing good things can happen, within the constraints posed by the reality, and that they can play a role in making them happen.
3) They are anchored in their core personal and organizational values, staying focused on what's important rather than allowing adversity to knock them off course.
4) They are persistent in tough times. They recover quickly from setbacks and celebrate small victories along the way.
5) They invest their physical, mental emotional and spiritual energy wisely, knowing when and how to build in recovery time so their energy isn't drained.
6) They act on the courage of their convictions. They take decisive action when adversity strikes and the stakes are high. Their courage largely comes from being clear about what matters most.
Patterson is co-author of the book "Resilient School Leaders: Strategies for Turning Adversity Into Achievement" (2005)