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What is resilience in the context of ethics and leadership?

It is important that any team feels able to act and work through solutions. This article explores how to build a culture of resilience in business and innovation.
Decorative image, people sat on cushions at a large round table, reading documents on the table. Turn the Tide – Curating Contemporary Art graduate project, Show 2017
© The Royal College of Art

In a model of leadership guided by values, fostering a mindset and a culture that makes any team member able to cope with uncertainty is key

Growing a culture of resilience towards ethics

It is important that any team feels able to act and work through solutions. This implies that working with ethics necessitates a resilience to ethical issues which should be practised across any role and position. Any member of a team should feel that they have the ability to work with uncertainty and believe that the team they are a part of is able to achieve results despite any challenges presented by unplanned events.

Resilience is a term associated with the capability to bounce back and respond to issues; it expresses the capacity to learn from adversarial events and be able to cope with any future similar recurrence through these learnings. At the heart of resilience is adaptation, and it is adaptation that might turn an issue into an opportunity.

Flexibility is also key to resilience, enabling a person to adapt and cope with challenges. In the same that way that nature adapts and changes when the environment presents survival challenges, people adapt and change their attitudes and behaviour, too.

What is a culture of resilience?

What is a culture of resilience towards ethics though? Can the definition of resilience be extended to this particular context?

We might all agree that ethical issues can have negative effects on the objectives, ambition and motivations of a project. It is therefore important to develop an approach that can cope with negative issues, and which relates to the way a challenge is perceived and what behaviour follows that perception. How can a team learn how to learn, adapt and be resilient to adversary conditions?

Resilience for ethics developed from systems feedback

In previous steps we looked at the capacity of values to help navigate uncertainty and complexity; a value-led approach enables us to create narratives that can transform issues into opportunities. These narratives help us to look at issues through a heuristic perspective, and this generates other types of solutions which can invert the course of the events, from negative to positive.

Such an attitude could draw a culture of resilience towards ethics. Under these terms, resilience to ethical challenges would be defined as the ability to see a situation from different kinds of perspectives and to identify, through the guidance of values, an opportunity that leverages and rewires the system from negative to positive. Being resilient would imply being able to use the feedback of a system as a leverage point in order to invert the polarity of certain relations from negative into positive.

Resiliency to ethical challenges is therefore the capacity to see, observe and analyse a situation, understand its ecosystem and its components, and be able to rewire connections to make positive feedback from negative ones.

The culture of resilience to ethical issues is an undefined context with no defined strategy and boundary; ethics is slippery and dynamic, therefore it is important to understand the context and contextualise any actions and behaviour accordingly.

© The Royal College of Art
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Ethical Practices to Guide Innovation

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