Resourceful Leaders

Gerwig 2015-02-27

Recently, we had a significant winter storm where I live. We had 18 inches of snow and then the temperature dropped to minus 12 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s cold!!! Snow and ice covered the roads, schools and businesses closed down, people stayed in their homes trying to stay warm while snow plows and salt trucks tried, unsuccessfully, to keep the roads clear.

I should mention that for some of you, this type of weather is no big deal. You live in Minnesota or North Dakota or Canada or Finland, but I live in Kentucky (USA) and this winter storm was a big deal. We rarely get 18 inches of snow at once and it’s been years since we recorded temperatures of minus 12 degrees. I heard one local weather forecaster saying it was the coldest week on record in over a hundred years. And of course many people could be heard saying, “What about global warming?”

Regardless of your views on global warming or winter storms, it’s fair to say that for those of us living in Kentucky, the storm was severe and we were only partially prepared. We had snow plows and salt trucks, but not enough. We had gas heaters and electric furnaces, but they didn’t work when the electricity went out. But we managed to get by nonetheless.

I drove several hundred miles (out of necessity) the week of the storm between Lexington, Louisville and Cincinnati, all in my little Toyota Prius (and no, it doesn’t have all-wheel drive). We had enough food in the house to stay fed. And even when the electricity went out, we managed to stay warm. Well, mostly warm. During the week, we demonstrated a resilience and resourcefulness in order to get around and deal with scarcity. Scarcity of clear roads, scarcity of electricity, scarcity of food, and scarcity of activities (yes, at times we were bored and began to experience a mini version of “cabin fever”).

But our resourcefulness paled in comparison with that of a flock of robins that showed up in our yard during the height of the storm. They seemed early to me. Typically robins show up in early spring and fill their bellies with worms. Listening to robins sing is a telltale sign that spring has arrived or, at worst, just around the corner. But these robins (hundreds of them) arrived in the middle of the winter storm. They filled several trees in our yard and that of our next-door neighbor.

At one point, I went outside to remove the accumulated snow from my car and scrape the ice off the windshield. Almost immediately, I noticed that several robins had flown over and landed on my car. They were drinking the melting ice running down the front and rear windshield as it turned into water. Over the course of the next 15 or 20 minutes, I would estimate that as many as 100 different robins took a turn drinking the melting ice and warming themselves on my car as I defrosted my windshields.

You might say that it was “survival of the fittest.” I prefer to think of it as resourcefulness. These robins were living in an environment of scarcity. The temperatures were unusually cold and their normal sources of water were frozen. I’m not a wildlife biologist, but I’m willing to bet these birds were cold, hungry and thirsty. Yes, they not only enjoyed drinking melting ice and warming up on my car, but they appreciated the water and bread I put out for them after I finished de-icing my car.

There are times when limitations, constraints and environmental conditions make it necessary to demonstrate resourcefulness if you are to successfully achieve your goals. This gives world-class leaders an opportunity to hone their ingenuity, imagination, and creativity. They develop resourcefulness in order to overcome scarcity and achieve organizational objectives.

Allow me to share 3 quick tips that will help:

  1. Keep your eyes open. Look around you. What can you use? Is there anything you can repurpose? Keep looking. It’s not a one-time action.
  2. Remain positive. Keep the faith and believe that you’ll find an answer. You may not enjoy abundance in the short-term, but without fail, whenever I’ve looked and remained positive, I’ve found enough. Enough food. Enough water. Enough money. Enough encouragement. Enough love. Enough “fill-in-the-blank.”
  3. Try things. Open eyes and a positive attitude will take you so far, but you have to act, experiment, and try things. Don’t let pride get in your way. Try a new approach. Learn from your failures. Combine ideas.

You are a lot more capable than a robin. And you have the ability to be a lot more resourceful. Are you? If not, what’s holding you back?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]


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