How resilient is leadership expert Grace Killelea? While grabbing her luggage from the overhead bin on a plane, her skirt fell off. “When people ask me what I did after my skirt fell off, I tell them, 'I picked it back up!’”
Not only that, she told 1,200 industry leaders attending her keynote speech at NEW Leadership Summit, she stapled it around the waistband of her tights to keep it up.
Killelea shared this and other personal experiences that shaped her insights on resilience, which she considers not only a critical trait for a workplace leader, but a life competency.
Earlier in life, an abusive marriage left Killelea broke and seemingly without options. It was with the advice and help of a crucial support network, which she calls her “tribe,” that empowered her toward a new life.
"A network gives you information. A tribe gives you love. Get a tribe,” Killelea said. “A tribe shows up and says we’re here — and it’s not about money — it’s about loving you when you’re down and helping you up.”
Men and women have shown themselves to be dedicated members of her tribe, she said. “Women hold up half the sky. Good men hold up the other half.”
Resilience requires the acceptance that life will sometimes be painful, uncomfortable and challenging. “When life hits us, its not about avoiding those things — they’re unavoidable,” she said. “It’s what you do with it. Resilience is what you do when it gets hard.”
Stop, drop and roll
Killelea’s personal strategy for dealing with challenges is inspired by a children’s fire safety film. “I remembered that little ditty, 'Stop, drop and roll.’ When you are on fire, your instinct is to run because you’re afraid.”
Instead, Killelea urges leaders facing crisis to:
Stop. “Stop running. Stop emotionally running. Stop talking incessantly. Catch your breath,” Killelea said. "Taking a deep breath in a crisis is the best thing you can do."
Drop. “Drop your attitude, your resentment, your anger.”
Roll. “How can you roll? How can you be flexible? How can you adapt to the environment?”
It’s important to understand what stresses you out. “Is it job pressure? Money? Health? Relationships? Is it media overload — a 24/7 world where you’ve never, ever still or quiet? Or is it a lack of sleep?”
Optimism is essential to building resilience. During difficult times, leaders should ask themselves, “What’s the opportunity? You can always fill the glass back up.”
Being there for your tribe, and your peers and acquaintances develops coping skills. “You can learn from other people,” Killelea said. “You don’t have to necessarily go through the hardship yourself.”
And when you have a dream, such as Killelea’s dream of standing on a stage in a big room before thousands of people? “Declare it,” she said.
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