The Resilient Leader

You will often face adversity, but your resilience will decide whether you can eventually overcome these setbacks

August, 2016

EVERY SUCCESSFUL LEADER has a story about how his or her response to challenges, setbacks or failures helped set them on the path to success.

In fact, there are many points in a successful career in which that person’s response to adversity can completely change their career trajectory; a rising star can crash and burn, or a struggling executive can break through and kick their career into high gear.

Watching a strong leader respond to adversity provides learning opportunities for aspiring leaders. Perhaps the greatest lesson you can glean is the importance of resilience.

The American Psychological Association describes resilience as, “The process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress … It means bouncing back from di cult experiences.” From my observations of successful leaders, I have realized that resilience is not only the ability to bounce back from challenges or failures, but to actually become stronger, smarter and more successful.

If you are a young executive, struggling to keep your head above water in the constantly changing, aggressively competitive, demanding 24/7 business world, the good news is that resilience is not just a trait you are born with, it is a skill you can learn, build and strengthen.

A few suggestions that I find particularly applicable for emerging leaders are:

• ENGAGE IN SELF-DISCOVERY. Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses. Recognize and work to improve areas of weakness and use your strengths to build self-confidence to keep moving forward.

• BUILD RELATIONSHIPS. Surround yourself with authentic and trustworthy peers
 and mentors.

• SET REALISTIC AND ACHIEVABLE GOALS. Focus on small steps that move you toward your goals and avoid setting big objectives that aren’t achievable.

• LOOK FOR THE SILVER LINING IN A CRISIS. Stressful situations are unavoidable but you can control how you cope and respond. What did you learn and how did you grow in ways that will help you in the future?

• ACT DECISIVELY. Deal with challenges head on; don’t ignore adversity and hope it goes away.

• STUDY THE BIG PICTURE. Avoid the urge to overreact by approaching problems within a broad context and from a long-term perspective. Is this a temporary road block or does it present a serious long-term difficulty?

• BE HOPEFUL. An optimistic outlook means you are expecting good things will happen. So visualize what you want, rather than fret about what you fear. Keep building your Emotional Quotient, or EQ.

There are few certainties in today’s business world, but one thing I can guarantee with confidence: You will face many setbacks in your career. The good news is you can always bounce back. That’s the beauty of resilience, so cultivate it in your professional and personal life.


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Bobby Senaha