being a necessity at senior levels, rather than a desirable element. In fact, whether we’re a University graduate, a Supervisor or an Executive, we’re all supposed to be leaders these days. And not just a run of the mill leader, but a resilient leader.
Let’s assume that you have put in the hard yards to develop your resilient leadership. What a pity then if you were not able to convince a prospective employer that you could play a significant leadership role in their organisation.
Outlined below are five critical sub-elements of resilient leadership. Assess your ability to prove to your future employer that you possess these rare and valuable qualities.
It is an obvious requirement for a leader to be visionary and you may think that you can easily sell this quality.
Let’s try this sample interview question, then.
Can you provide a compelling answer to this question? Can you then provide an example of where you have demonstrated visionary leadership?
Tip #1: Expand your understanding of leadership
At an interview, you will be expected to have a clear understanding of leadership and of vision. And, you will be expected to provide evidence of your leadership.
I started with very poor leadership skills and often say that I’m not a natural leader. I then spent 10 years reading Harvard Business Review from cover to cover. I’m not sure how much of that information translated into improving my leadership ability, but I know that I can talk the talk, at least.
Most definitions of leadership contain an assessment of the ability of a leader to influence others, to get people to come on board with their ideas.
Now, in an interview, it’s pretty hard to convince an employer that you have the ability to influence people if you are not verbally fluent.
Many years ago, when I first ventured overseas, I can remember having a political discussion in French with a group of people. I was convinced that my argument was correct but I also knew that, on that occasion, I lost the battle. My French language skills weren’t strong enough to carry the day.
Ask yourself whether you have language skills that are attractive and nuanced enough to influence people.
Tip #2: Vet your Language
English is a funny old language. As at 2014, there were 1.025 million words and no other language comes anywhere near this number. This allows you to choose a precise word, to convey exactly what you want to convey.
Your challenge is to choose between the natural, every day Anglo-Saxon words and the other million-plus words that allow you to be nuanced, precise and persuasive.
One of the key components of the Emotional Intelligence aspect of leadership is having a clear knowledge of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. This self-awareness allows you to understand other people, and how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment.
In an interview, the default position of a prospective employer is to unconsciously presume that you possess self-awareness unless you do something that raises doubts. So your job is to avoid raising any doubt about your levels of self-awareness.
Tip #3: See the world from the buyer's seat
"Why are you leaving your current job?"
You reply honestly saying, "My Manager and I don't see eye to eye about the strategic direction of the business and she is too operational, I think."
The normal conclusion from the person sitting opposite you, who would be your future boss, is that you have a problem with your Manager. And, that you’d possibly say the same thing about him in six months’ time. Very few prospective bosses like the thought of that.
Even if you have the common sense not to make such a comment, do you analyse what it is that a prospective employer is likely to be worried about in relation to you and then deal with it? Your future boss may never specifically voice these concerns in the interview but that doesn't mean she is not mulling over it. It's your job to cover off on all such issues and turn them into non-issues.
There is some debate currently about just what authentic leadership looks like in the workplace, but when vetting a job candidate, what an employer really wants is someone who is genuine and trustworthy.
Watch out for two strong characteristics that your interviewer may have that make your job more challenging. Some employers do not find boasting and ambit claims about achievements and abilities at all appealing. Further, others are experts at spotting a fake. So, you must sell your authenticity and your leadership qualities in a subtle, convincing manner.
Tip #4: Sound likeable and normal in Cover Letters and Interviews
There is usually a certain level of tension on both sides: you are anxious to win the role and the employer is anxious not to make an error. Don’t let the tension and the formality of the process interfere with an essential task: to sound like a normal human being.
Throughout history, people have often had to show resilience just to survive.
Two of my ancestors walked from Adelaide to the Gold Fields in Victoria in the 1860s. That’s a distance of more than 600 kilometres and there were very few established stopping places along the way.
Back in the 1930s, when Australia was in the depths of the Great Depression, getting a job was extremely tough. Many men resorted to picking up their swags and continuing on their way until they found work.
Fast forward to the 21st century and ask yourself whether you are prepared to push the limits of your comfort zone and use unconventional job search methods to win your next job. Techniques such as Job Search Networking and Direct Employer Contact provide any future employer with proof-positive that you have resilience. Do you have the intestinal fortitude to do it?
Tip #5: Prove that you can do the tough stuff
If you send out résumé after résumé or put your hopes in the hands of a Recruiter, you are stuck operating in the Visible Job Market.
Top of the Tree
Resilience is often described as a personal quality that predisposes individuals to bounce back in the face of loss.
Resilient leaders, however, do more than bounce back—they bounce forward. With speed and elegance, resilient leaders take action that responds to new and ever-changing realities, even as they maintain the essential operations of the organisations they lead.
If you have these magical qualities, it is critical that you provide proof-positive at all stages of the job search process.
There are many reasons why you might miss out on a desired leadership role, but for goodness sake, make sure it’s not because you failed to provide evidence to your prospective employer.
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aBOUT THE AUTHOR
Catherine Cunningham is Adelaide's leading career expert. She appears regularly in The Weekend Australian Careers section, in The Advertiser's CareerOne, as well as in online publications such as news.com.au, thenewdaily.com.au and womensagenda.com.au
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