It is not the strongest species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.’ Charles Darwin
As a leader of a project, team or organisation, navigating change is inevitable. Nature models this, with its cycles and death and new beginnings. Change is part of the process. Nothing ever stays the same, despite our occasional best hopes that they might. And so, we must find ways to be ok with change, and all it brings.
When I first left employment and set up Bird, I had a huge amount of learning to do around the level of change that comes with running an organisation. It felt like things were laid out in a certain way in the Bird calendar at the beginning of each week, and by the end of the week, it was completely unrecognisable because so much shifted as the days ticked by.
Fast forward four years and things are still just as ever-changing and uncertain. I’ve come to learn that running an organisation will always be like that, but the thing that has altered is my ability to be ok with it all. These days I find myself almost peaceful in the face of change. I know it will come, I expect it, and I have faith that the company and I will be ok with whatever the future brings. I embrace the change and have even found ways to laugh at how much the pieces can move in any given day.
It’s important too to think about the changes around us. As leaders we will more often shine our lights inwards, looking at the nuts and bolts of the organisation, the team, the board. But understanding and holding our ever-changing context lightly is important too. Political landscapes change, environmental landscapes change, societies change and advancements and innovations happen, and we certainly can’t keep a steady constant handle on it all. We have to simply know everything around us will naturally alter and remember that we are capable and resourceful enough to be with it, learn from it, and navigate through it. It’s an essential part of the leadership journey.
Being ok with change is part of being a resilient leader. When we hold onto things as they are, we take ourselves and our organisations down a fragile road, one that will inevitably get upturned at some point along the way. Being ok with, and even inviting change turns us anti-fragile (Nassim Nicholas Taleb). Being anti-fragile, Taleb says, is like the Greek mythological creature Hydra, who after having her head chopped off, grows two new ones in its place. Being anti-fragile is about leaning into the change. Not only is it about weathering the storm, but it’s also about using the storm to grow and evolve.
Overall, I now navigate life with a kind of relaxed intention. I intend for things to happen, but I am calm when they don’t. I am anti-fragile. I look for the learnings, I look for what’s trying to emerge through the change. I have faith that internal and external changes will happen and that myself, and Bird, will be able to go along for the ride.
Hannah and Bird have partnered with ACEVO for a number of years. We work with CEOs one to one to help you build and maintain resilience (particularly through challenging times such as struggles with the board, staff changes/challenges or an unexpected loss of role). We also work with ACEVO members by delivering wellbeing and resiliency workshops to their teams. Please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.