Leadership resilience is the ability to bounce back from a difficult situation whereas leadership capacity speaks to the ability or simply, the level of competency of a leader. Tenacity is more about a leaders persistence and determination.
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines it as: the determination to continue what you are doing. I think tenacity, in the positive sense, is not just being stubborn for the sake of being stubborn. I know of a lot of stubborn leaders, who fight on despite being wrong. I think tenacious leaders are those who know which hill to fight for and which one to let go of. It begins by firstly knowing what is the right thing to do, having the right vision, and then having the ability to stay the course even though there will inevitably be opposition. It’s about being crystal clear on the vision that will move the organization forward and differentiating between what is vision and what is methodology. These lines are easily blurred. The right vision is worth fighting for and should not change, methodologies change all of the time. A tenacious leader will die on the hill of vision, but will let go of methods easily when they’ve run their course. I think being a tenacious leader is also about knowing who to listen to and who not to. Tenacious leaders know they can’t please everyone, but they also know that there are people out there who understand the greater good and when to listen to them. Stubborn leaders tend to shut everybody out and when a leader stops listening to his trusted inner circle, he is in big trouble.
Billy McBean, author of The Facts of Business Life combines tenacity with courage and patience as one characteristic in his list of leadership characteristics.
These three together are invaluable as a leader. Tenacity without patience will lead to stubbornness. Patience, as a leader, means that I understand the difference between a good idea and the implementation of that idea. Most times, I have to slow down with launching an idea because I have to make sure that my team is with me in the implementation of that idea. I have made too many mistakes in the past of prematurely launching a good idea, only to have it fail because no one was with me. Many leaders think if the idea failed that it was a bad idea, but that is not always the case, I have found that great ideas can fail too, if I don’t have patience in the process of implementation. Patience partnered with courage and tenacity is a powerful triplet for a leader. I don’t think you can be tenacious without courage, and I don’t think you can be successful in your tenacity without incorporating patience.
Art Petty, former senior software executive, writes of the need to create a tenacious culture and for leaders to model behaviour that cultivates tenacity. But if tenacity doesn’t come natural for a leader, can they develop it?
I think tenacity comes natural to those who are crystal clear on their vision. According to Andy Stanley, the definition of a vision is “it’s a mental picture of what could be fuelled by a passion that it must be.” The stronger your “must”, the more naturally tenacious you will be. If you have a mental picture of what could be, but you don’t have a strong enough “must be” then you simply have a dream, a fantasy, and you won’t have the drive necessary, or the tenacity, to see it through amidst the inevitable opposition each godly vision will face. The stronger your “must” the more naturally tenacious you will be to see it through.
Today the hiring process searches the IQ and EQ of potential employees. Roy Gori, President of Manulife believes tomorrow’s leaders should also search for employees based on their TQ or Tenacity Quotient. Verify the level of tenacity in a potential hire by checking their vision. How passionate are they about their dreams and goals. But, more importantly, as a leader who is looking at a potential candidate for my team, I must see how strong their passion is for our organizations vision. Do they have a strong enough “must”? Can they separate the vision from the methods? What is their passion level, on a scale of 1 to 10 for our vision? That number will determine their tenacity level.
Roy Gori’s states that “tenacity provides perspective to place short term difficulties in the context of a higher goal”.You can only have perspective in the short term if you have clarity in the long term. Click To Tweet
There it is again, “a higher goal.” You can only have perspective in the short term if you have clarity in the long term. Too many leaders are frustrated with team members who give up quickly in the short term and often blame their lack of tenacity, when in actuality the problem might not be a tenacity problem at all — it might be a lack of clear vision. My role as the organizations leader is to clarify the vision and set clear goals for my team. Then I must drive home the “musts” of that vision. The short term difficulties will be overcome by a team that is crystal clear on the big picture, the long term, higher goal and is passionate to get there.
Questioning the Status Quo
Tenacity is often connected to the doggedness it takes to push a goal to the finish line; but also can be the key to a culture that questions the status quo and takes ownership to push for what should be rather than settling for what has always been. I happen to believe that leadership begins by questioning the status quo. Just look at some of the world’s greatest leaders throughout history, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandella, and of course Jesus, just to name a few. All of these leaders questioned the status quo. They all had a mental picture of what could be and were fuelled by a passion that it must be. That mental picture was one of change. I think society as a whole naturally drifts from vision to methodology. What I mean is we get more passionate about systems and methods than visions and goals and lose our perspective. Tenacious leaders will constantly separate the methods from the vision and will constantly question the status quo — even their own status quo — in order to move the vision forward.
It comes down to being focused on the end goal, on the desired results. If we are not getting the desired results then we must be willing to change and do anything necessary to push the goal to the finish line. For us, that meant questioning every methodology of doing church in order to reach people far from Jesus. We are constantly changing things in order to become more effective in reaching people for Jesus. If we don’t see souls being saved we are grossly dissatisfied and are willing to do anything short of sin to see more souls come into the Kingdom of God.
Some may think that tenacity is often the missing ingredient of chronic underachievers. A common misbelief is that our level of tenacity is tied to our personality and temperament. I definitely don’t think our personalities or temperaments have any bearing on our level of tenacity. If history has shown us anything, it has shown us a wide variety of tenacious people, people with every type of personality imaginable. Again, the level of tenacity is more determined by a clear mental picture of what could be and an absolute determination that it must be.
Another misconception is that an employee is stuck in a position that doesn’t dial in to their strengths will jeopardize their usually level of tenacity. Studies have shown that over 80% of employees in North American are working in jobs that don’t dial into their strengths. While I think this is a definite problem, I don’t think it has as big of an effect on their level of tenacity as one might think. Working outside of your strengths will definitely effect your effectiveness to produce results and therefore your frustration levels will go up, there’s no doubt, but your level of tenacity, is again, going to be more effected by clear vision and goals than by the placement of your strengths.
Priorities for Tenacity
Leaders often start out on a fresh challenge with tenacity but end up in the weeds of discouragement and distractions. We all tend to start strong and get weary in the process. Any vision worth pursing will take time and effort and a tenacity to follow through.
My three priorities are;
- I renew myself with the vision. I recenter on my must level and I make sure that that is remaining strong.
- I recreate my energy levels. I make sure I pace myself for a marathon rather than a sprint. That means getting proper rest as well as taking the time to sharpen my knowledge and skills with books, podcasts, and time with mentors.
- I surround myself with the right team. One is too small a number to achieve greatness, so it is vital to have the right team around me working together on the same goal. I pour into them and I have found that the right people also pour into me. Working alone might get you there faster, but you will go must further working together. I prefer to go further with a team.
Diana Nyad tried for years to swim from Cuba to Florida. Her mantra became “find a way”. She had tried this swim for the first time when she was 29 years old. In 1975, she became the first person to make the swim without a protective cage. Her final triumphant swim took 53 hours. She was 64 years old and had been trying for more than 30 years. She personifies tenacity.
Tenacity keeps the vision and mission of our lives pushing to “find a way”. We certainly would say that the Early church Apostles kept the faith, ran the race….but it is up to us now. We need to recenter on what our mission and vision is. For me, the mission for the church is simple. Jesus gave us this mission when he shared the Great Commission with his disciples. We are to go and make disciples. The mission describes our “why.” We are here on earth to be the hands and feet of Jesus and to expand His Kingdom. Our vision defines what we do. It defines the mental picture of what the church should look like. So, I want to ask each church leader, in your mind, what could the church look like in your community? The clearer the picture you have, the better you will be at making it happen. But a clear picture is not enough, you must have a strong must. The church you see must happen in your community. For me, the church I see is the hope of the world and we’re on a mission to reach every available person at every available time by every available means with the Gospel of Jesus Christ by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.
- The Facts of Business Life by Billy McBean
- Leadership Resilience podcast
- Leadership Capacity podcast
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