What does “building resilience” mean and why is it important for leaders?

Uncategorized Apr 27, 2023

Definitions of resilience

Before we can discuss what building resilience means to leaders, we first must define resilience.

As is most commonly understood, resilience is the ability to bounce back quickly after a setback. From the Latin, resilire, meaning “to leap back”

However, most scholars don’t agree on one definition, as resilience (like wellness) is an abstract construct. In the past 30 years alone there have been 12 different theories of resilience.

Despite scholars’ disagreement on the definition of resilience, most do agree in these three areas:

  1. Resilience involves two core concepts: Adversity and positive adaptation.
  2. It’s a dynamic process that changes over time.
  3. Resilience involves a wide range of factors and influences.

Where does resilience come from?

Scholars also disagree where resilience comes from, as many factors contribute to resilience: personality, social support, self-esteem, genetics, etc.

To further complicate the issue, some resilience theories are based on specific populations, such as people involved in sport or those in the military, so it is difficult to apply these specific theories to the general population.

Two categories of resilience

There are two main categories of resilience: trait resilience and state resilience. Trait resilience is the person’s general ability to deal with adversity. Characteristics that comprise trait resilience include personal history, genes and personality, etc. Trait resilience is also referred to as “ego resilience”, with its associated characteristics considered protective factors.

State resilience is the ability of the person to deal with specific adverse situations. As it’s a resilience that’s situation-dependent and dynamic, there is room for growth, for building resilience.

Resilience defined

Now that we’ve briefly sketched the landscape of resilience, let’s settle on a definition. One of the most widely used definitions comes from researchers Luthar, Chicchetti, & Becker. It reads:

“Resilience is a dynamic process encompassing positive adaptation within the context of significant adversity.”

If building resilience is your aim, there are three points captured here that are vital to keep in mind about resilience. It’s:

  1. A dynamic process. Therefore, resilience can change over time and can differ according to the situation.
  2. A positive adaptation. To be resilient means the ability to find the positive in the situation and to drive toward a positive outcome.
  3. Experiencing significant adversity. Adversity is key to building resilience because it is this quality that enables you to positively adapt to a negative situation, coming out of it with a positive outcome.

Positive events build resilience, too

In recent years, researchers have found that positive events can also help build resilience. One resilience technique that leverages a positive event is called “savoring.” When a person savors a positive experience, this can help them build resilience when they face a negative situation.

The purpose of resilience building for leadership

Leaders need resilience because their role often involves navigating complex and challenging situations that can be emotionally and mentally taxing. For example, leaders are responsible for leading teams, making tough decisions, managing conflicts, and dealing with unexpected changes and crises.

Benefits of building resilience

There are many benefits to leaders when they build their resilience. These include:
• Adapting to and recovering quickly from setbacks, failures, and difficulties
• Staying focused
• Remaining calm under pressure
• Maintaining a positive attitude in the face of adversity

Other benefits to leaders include those under their leadership, such as:
• Serving as role models
• Demonstrating the importance of perseverance and determination in achieving goals and overcoming obstacles
• Inspiring and motivating their team members to keep pushing forward, even when faced with challenges

In the study “Psychological resilience and business survival chances: A study of small firms in the USA during COVID-19” conducted by Malvika Chhatwani, Sushanta Kumar Mishra, Arup Varma and Himanshu Rai, the researchers found that the business owner’s positive emotions that came from their psychological resilience helped build resources that may help reduce depression, thereby increasing their small business’ survival chances during a crisis.

Resilience is an essential quality for leaders because it enables them to navigate the ups and downs of leadership, maintain their effectiveness, and positively affect their teams.

Resilience training in leader development

As resilience is a dynamic process and can be learned, and as building resilience yields numerous benefits, resilience training is essential for leader development. Some of its more direct benefits to leaders and their teams include:

Improved stress management. Leaders often face high levels of stress due to their responsibilities, such as managing employees, meeting deadlines, and dealing with unexpected challenges. Resilience training can help them develop coping strategies and techniques to manage stress more effectively.

Better decision-making. When leaders are more resilient, they are better equipped to handle difficult situations and make sound decisions. Resilience training can help them develop the ability to think critically and make decisions under pressure.

Enhanced communication. Resilience training can improve communication skills, which are essential for leaders. They can learn how to effectively communicate with employees, clients, and stakeholders during challenging times.

Increased productivity. Resilient leaders are more productive because they can handle stress and challenges without becoming overwhelmed. They are better able to manage their time, prioritize tasks, and remain focused on their goals.

Improved job satisfaction. Resilient leaders are better equipped to handle setbacks and bounce back from failures. This can lead to a greater sense of job satisfaction and motivation to continue improving their performance.

In brief, resilience training can provide leaders with the tools they need to manage stress, make sound decisions, communicate effectively, increase productivity, and improve their job satisfaction.

Leaders: Get started on building your resilience by seeing if you have a growth mindset. Take this FREE ASSESSMENT today.


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