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  • Writer's pictureJosh Vaisman

3 Steps to Your Leadership Superpower

Leading a veterinary hospital through a crisis like COVID-19 is friggin’ hard work.

At any given moment you might feel overwhelmed by the ever-changing chaos like a dog chasing it’s tail over and over and over again.

I get it. I’m hearing the stories of struggle and stress from all over the veterinary community.

I’m also hearing stories of strength, perseverance, and overcoming. That’s right, even in the face of this insanity folks are finding ways to thrive and lead thriving teams.

Many of them do it by activating their Grit Superpowers.

That’s a good superpower to call on right now. Recent research suggests the grittiness of a leader strongly predicts the grittiness (and resilience) of their team.

Grit, according to it’s leading expert, psychologist and researcher Angela Duckworth, is the stamina to persist in the face of challenge. When leaders have and show grit, especially in the face of crisis, it tends to “rub off” on their teams. As a result, the team is more likely to thrive through and beyond the adversity.

Veterinary leaders and managers – you need to activate your Grit Superpowers now more than ever.

But how?

Here are three ways:

1) Purpose: A meaningful sense of purpose strongly correlates with increased grittiness. That is to say, when we feel like what we’re doing has a positive purpose, when it feels meaningful, our Grit Superpower activates and energizes. As a leader you can maximize this for you and your team. Make the purpose of the work you are doing front and center vividly and frequently by considering, sharing, and talking about some key questions:

  • What we are working on right now – who is it benefiting? How?

  • Who would be impacted if we didn’t work on this?

  • How does this work, right now, match up with my values? Our values?

2) Growth: From the seminal research by Carol Dweck we know that our mindset about challenges stumbles, and adversity greatly impacts our ability to overcome them productively. When we hold the belief that we can grow and improve – that we are not defined by the challenge itself but rather by what we learn from it – we do much better. This relates to a phenomenon psychologists call post-traumatic growth. It turns out, quite often, when we experience and survive a significant setback or crisis we tend to grow resilience resources as a result. For example, cancer survivors often talk about the strength and connection they developed as a result of their illness. This can happen in teams and organizations as well. Gritty leaders know this, embrace it, and activate it by:

  • Taking note of what they, the team, and the organization have learned from in real time.

  • Sharing these lessons genuinely and routinely with the team.

  • Rewarding (by recognition, appreciation, or a tangible reward of some kind) “learning behavior” in the team over actual results.

3) Support: Over and over the research tells us the social support we have is one of the strongest foundations of a gritty, resilient response to life’s challenges. In times of crisis, leaders with Gritty Superpowers looking to maximize the same superpowers in their team seek and offer support in a variety of ways. Here are a few:

  • They err on the side of over-communicating. The goal is to keep the team as fully informed as possible. This builds trust, boosting oxytocin (a social bonding neurotransmitter) in both the leader and the team.

  • They counterbalance the stress of the situation with an abundance of appreciation. Gritty leaders recognize the best in their team during times of crisis and call it out genuinely, regularly, in real time.

  • They seek their own support. Gritty leaders aren’t solo heroes – they actively find social support of their own. Sometimes that support even comes from their team.

So yes, what we’re enduring right now is difficult, even painful. You don’t need to be a heroic leader, overcoming it alone in epic Hollywood-fashion.

But you do have superpowers that can help. And you can activate them.

In doing so, through your leadership, you’ll help your entire team through the chaos to the light on the other side.

I believe in you.

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