How Leaders Can Employ Regenerative Resilience to Navigate Change

Insights from Futurist Elatia Abate on the Future of Leadership

How might we empower success in the face of great uncertainty and disruption? In 2017, entrepreneur, educator and futurist Elatia Abate put everything she owned into storage except for a single carry-on suitcase to go in search of the answer to this question.

Abate was initially inspired by futurist, entrepreneur, physician and engineer Peter Diamandis, who spoke at a conference Abate attended in 2016. During his speech, Diamandis explored the technologies behind self-driving trucks and their impact on business and industry. Although excited for the innovation of the future, Abate began wondering what new technology meant for the future of employment. This moment prompted Abate’s continued research into what happens during times of large technological shift.

How can human beings not just survive such an event, but thrive during it?

AESC spoke with Abate to discover some of the answers she has found to this burning question and what it means for the executive talent industry.

AESC: You know better than anyone that there are historic societal and demographic shifts having a major impact on organizations, and therefore leaders. What changes are on the horizon that leaders need to be preparing for now? 

Elatia Abate: Every industry in every corner of the world – from healthcare and biology to education and manufacturing – is being impacted by technological change and disruption. When we look at the size, scale and scope of what this means in terms of change, we also need to look at what this means in terms of opportunity and risk.

I hear all the time, “It’s okay, we’re talking about technological disruption in Silicon Valley,” or for those that are outside of the United States, “Oh, that’s in the United States and not going to affect us here.” If that's the thinking, I'm here to tell you it’s going to impact everyone, everywhere. And it’s already happening. That is the biggest one. The best thing to do is to understand how these shifts are impacting what we understand as a business to align ourselves with the dynamics of change.

The second change leaders need to be preparing for is the global aging workforce population. According to the United Nations, we are seeing older and older populations and fewer births in many countries. The shift in demographics is enormous and has a big impact for businesses.

Related to that, by some estimates, if we can manage to survive for the next 15 years or so, then we can expect another 20 years of healthy life expectancy. So what happens when we thought retirement age was going to be 55 or 65, and we've got a whole other 20 more years of life there?

Those three things are what I would be paying attention to.

AESC: We know, since the pandemic, but even really before the pandemic, this constant change and increasing uncertainty in the world are leading to quite a lot of burnout and exhaustion in the workplace. We also know the pace of change is likely only going to accelerate. What can C-level executives do to keep both themselves and their teams healthy, engaged, and innovative? 

Elatia Abate: First and foremost, it’s important to understand that this is more the norm than not the norm. Any push or desire to go back to how things were is futile and you will run into more burnout there. Understanding that will set you free from whatever was going on in the past.

Then, comes the understanding that leadership has changed because we are now in what the World Economic Forum calls the Fourth Industrial Revolution and what I call the Quantum Revolution or the Energetic Revolution. Leadership formats and strategies that were designed in the industrial age no longer apply.

That is why we must look to Regenerative Resilience™️. We’re seeing a lot in the popular media about resilience and how important it is. However, resilience – especially in the United States – has a negative connotation of suffering through it and pushing through and doing it in any way. That's not going to work when the world is thrust into uncertainty for extended periods of time with no foreseeable end. So regenerative in that, not only are we surviving, but we're utilizing this change in the dynamics of it to help us, our teams and our communities thrive. 

AESC: You created a program called Regenerative Resilience™. Can you walk us through the fundamentals and who the program is for? 

Elatia Abate: This program is for anyone in a business leadership position, especially executives and leaders who have realized in recent years that what they were doing before is no longer working. They’re seeing it in themselves, their teams and the clients they serve.

Regenerative Resilience was born out of and designed for this quantum age that we're living in. It works at an individual leadership level and at an organizational strategic level.

There are three pillars to the program. The first is clarity about who you are, what you're up to, why that's important to you and the kind of impact that you want to create so that you can name the things you value most. You can evaluate whether or not what you're doing for work is aligned with those things that you value. So, are you exhausting yourself or are you fulfilling yourself? Once you have your answer, you can understand how to protect your boundaries.

The second pillar is fearlessness – not courage. Courage is a fundamentally extractive ability. You're going to feel the courage to jump out of an airplane or feel the courage to climb a mountain. But feeling courage for 20 years on end leads to burnout. So you want to have fearlessness, which is about understanding that we have control over the mind. It’s about utilizing the chemicals and hormones that are running around in our bodies so that we don't need to feel that fear constantly and consistently. We just learn how to manage it. 

It's learning how to think more strategically about how we resource the projects that we're working on so that we don't experience burnout. We need to have enough resources to help us so we can tap out if we need to. Challenging assumptions is also so critically important because fear, anxiety or stress come when we think we don't have a choice. So if we can name, define, and then challenge the assumptions that we have about what is, or isn't truly operating in our world, then all of a sudden our options begin to open up.

The third pillar is connection. It focuses on how we communicate about ourselves, with whom we're working, and how we utilize the technologies that are available to us to create a truly human connection. 

AESC: Organizations around the world have put even greater focus over the past few years on their DEI commitments, to improve the diversity of their leadership teams as well as their greater workforce, but also to create stronger cultures of inclusion and belonging. How do the principles of your program help leaders build more diverse and inclusive organizations? 

Elatia Abate: All three pillars do, but I'll highlight specifically the clarity and connection pieces.

If we take Regenerative Resilience up to the strategic organizational level, we can gain clarity about who we are as an organization, what's important to us, what mission we're fulfilling, and what clients we're serving. If diversity equity inclusion and belonging is a stated value, then getting really clear about how well or not we are fulfilling that value across a whole series of metrics becomes fundamentally important. The clarity piece can really help folks who are leading organizations realize if they are truly being diverse, equitable, and inclusive, or if it's just a lot of blah, blah, blah and systems need to be changed.

Connection and belonging happen when we feel welcome. Belonging happens when we see people who look like us in the spaces where we're navigating. So how are we creating that kind of inclusivity and belonging in our hiring and promotion practices?

AESC: AESC is the professional association of the leading executive search and leadership consulting firms worldwide. As advisors to organizations around the world, how can executive search and leadership consultants employ the Regenerative Resilience framework? 

Elatia Abate: It’s challenging to advise clients on being regeneratively resilient if your organization is not regeneratively resilient first. How is the health of you and your team? Determine if you or your team is struggling with burnout, moral injury, exhaustion and/or disconnection. If so, it must be fixed before assisting clients with similar issues. Then, really get into conversations with your clients about their health. How are things going? What are they most concerned about?

Over the last several weeks, I've been in conversations with literally hundreds of executives and a common theme I’ve heard is, “We don't know what to do. We know it's bad and we don't feel empowered to deal with it.” And so Regenerative Resilience is a framework structure that people can utilize as a starting point to begin conversations and to bring transparency to what's happening, find out where burnout is coming from, and how people can empower themselves to thrive. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the Regenerative Resilience framework, you can join Elatia Abate at AESC’s Boutique and Independent Firm Forum on September 7.

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