What role does resilience play in effective leadership?

May 25, 2023

 As May is Mental Health Awareness Month, in this blogpost we’ll be exploring how the positive attributes of resilience contributes to effective leadership. 

In my eBook, The Achiever’s Guide to Failure: How to Succeed In Spite of Fearing Failure, I recount a study done by the National Center on Women and Aging (now known as the National Program on Women and Aging) at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. In this study, women age 50 plus said they feel happier about getting older than they thought they would. 

Quoted in Time Magazine, Elaine Wethington, a Cornell University sociologist who specializes in midlife explains it this way:  

“There is kind of a virtuous cycle created when women feel more confident about their coping skills. They are better at coming to grips with problems because they believe that they can, and solving problems then feeds back and gives you (sic “them”) a sense of mastery of life.”

Persistently solving problem after problem, facing challenge after challenge, is one of the hallmarks of resilience. And it’s one of the hallmarks of being a good leader. 

Leading through changes and challenges

Today’s leaders are constantly facing change and all that change presents challenges. It is resilience that allows these leaders to first embrace change with a positive attitude and then persist through the challenges it presents. It is resilience that allows the leader to bounce back quickly after a setback, and to step back to examine what can be learned from that failure. And it is resilience that keeps that leader rinsing and repeating. 

Some other qualities that resilience forges within leaders include: 

Adaptability. Constant change and challenge require leaders to adapt, and resilient leaders have adaptability in spades. By being so adaptable and forging through ever-changing challenges, resilient leaders can successfully achieve their objectives, inspiring confidence in their teams. 

Problem-solving. The basis for resilience is having a growth mindset which is the belief that one can grow and become better as skills and intelligence can be learned and improved. Therefore, a resilient leader will approach a problem with curiosity, seeking to discover solutions by learning more about the situation. As resilience can improve self-efficacy providing self-confidence, the resilient leader is more apt to stay calm under pressure, knowing that the solution to the problem is nearby. 

Role modeling. As resilient leaders take a positive approach to challenges and have a wide array of positive coping strategies, they serve as good role models for their teams. 

Building resilience in others. Role modeling leads to building resilience in others. By creating resilient teams, resilient leaders are also building more resilient organizations. The foundation of more resilient teams and organizations is built upon providing positive guidance and creating an environment that promotes learning, growth, and psychological safety. 

Decision-making. Resilient leaders can make better decisions under uncertain and ambiguous conditions because resilience has fostered qualities within them that allow them to do so, qualities like: demonstrating self-efficacy and self-confidence, being adaptable, possessing a growth mindset, remaining calm under pressure and considering multiple perspectives before making informed choices. 

To be an effective leader . . . or a resilient one?

Leaders must have:

  • Grit
  • Determination
  • Clear vision,
  • Self-confidence
  • Adaptability
  • A growth mindset

These are some of the qualities of an effective leader as well as a resilient one.  So to be an effective leader, leaders must learn resilience.

Having a growth mindset is foundational to building resilience. Do you have a growth mindset? Find out by taking this quick quiz.