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LFL15 Resilient Leadership: My Six Pillars of Resilience

Lessons for Leaders

Release Date: 05/05/2020

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I'm talking about 

  • what resilience is
  • how resilience impacts you in leadership and your employees
  • what are my six pillars of resilience

Leaders are expected to be able to run and lead in their business and to be able to do it well.  Accenture concluded that 

"Resilience may be the new criterion for professional advancement"

With business and economic challenge the way a leader handles pressure is likely to have a huge impact on performance and success of an organisation.  So resilience is critical to survive the challenges ahead, during and after lockdown.

What is Resilience?

When I ask this in my training and workshops, people say

  • Keeping going
  • Staying strong in hard times
  • Mental toughness

Resilience is an important personal attribute that can have a wide-ranging influence on your personal wellbeing and your performance at work.

It’s more than your bounce-back-ability.   For me, it’s not about how well you keep going, it’s about how well you adapt.  As Charles Darwin said 

"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change. “ 

Good news is that resilience is mouldable.  You can build your resilience, you can re-shape it which means we can all develop resilience.


The Link Between Leadership and Resilience

Leadership stress and resilience has been explored extensively.  Stress related illness and personal issues feature highly with leaders and studies show that around two thirds of leaders are affected.  Yet, the other third successfully thrived, despite leadership challenges.  What seemed to set them apart was their adaptability and the skills that combined to enhance a resilient mindset.

Leaders can also have a direct impact on the resilience of their workforce and employees too, simply with the way they react and respond to challenge and change.

Six Pillars to Resilience

1.   Vision and Purpose

Do you have vision and purpose for yourself and your company Giving ourselves meaning and direction is what pushes us forward.  This gives us the reason to get up in a morning.  Research says when you’re engaged and have purpose, life becomes easier, less complicated and less stressful.

It might be worth revisiting this.

2.   Awareness

Our awareness of ourselves and others around us will affect how we respond and how we view the situations we are challenged with.

When we are aware, we know what is a challenge or what is stressful and what is not.  Then we can adapt and decide how we deal with it.  We can incorporate tools that help us to be regulated, calm or positive.  This will all have an impact on our mental health, stress and resilience.

Listen in to the podcast for tips around this …

Awareness isn’t just about what your find difficult.  Knowing what lift you means you know what you can do quickly and easily to recharge.

3.  Support

There are few aspects to the support we have and need

  • Having a network around you
  • What support do you have and what do you need?
  • Not being afraid to ask for help

When we have people we can talk to and reach out for support is lessens the load of what we are going through.  Having people to talk to also creates connection and we all need connection and to feel part of something.  It stems from our tribal days.

It can also mean we don’t feel so alone.  Many of the leaders I work with do say they feel alone.

Loneliness can take a real toll on both our mental and physical health. Having meaningful relationships through a support network of family, friends, colleagues and other social groups helps us feel connected and valued.

Who is your support network and what types of support they offer?

4.   Attitude

What is your attitude like when presented with problems to solve? 

One method to reframe your thinking about successes and failures. When things go wrong, someone with an optimistic or positive attitude will tend to see the problem as a way of learning, or that identifies things that didn’t work. 

Attitude is also about looking at what we can control and influence and what we cannot. 

Listen to the podcast to find out what I used to say to my managers to help them have a more resilient attitude about change.

This way of thinking can be learned and developed, so that it’s much easier for us to reframe, be positive focus on what we can control.

5.   Thinking Styles

There are some well known thinking styles that we automatically kick into.  Are you the avoidant ostrich, the one who sees catastrophes or the rational thinker?

By identifying and understanding your thinking patterns and this self talk, or ‘limiting beliefs’, you can learn to challenge them and change how you react to challenging situations.

Emma explains some ways you can challenge your thinking patterns and beliefs.

It's also good to change the idea of making mistakes to being something you can learn from rather than a problem.  

This all helps leaders to have a set of skills that support the process of overcoming difficult situations, challenges and set-backs.

Coaching can support leaders in this too!

6.   Health

Although this is health – I mean both mental and physical health.  Your mental health will improve with your increased awareness and adapting your thinking style as I've already mentioned.

With your physical health  - exercise has been correlated with stronger levels of resilience. This is be due to the effects of endorphins and feel good chemicals improving mood.

It's not just going to the gym, since they're closed during lockdown anyway.  We have the one hour exercise allowing in the UK.  We need to use it.

It can also be having a walk, dancing, an upbeat or calming music playlist

It might be something upbeat and with people or something quiet and relaxing or alone.

Work out what boosts your energy levels and what drains you.  Find things that you can fit into your life without feeling that you MUST do or that you will beat yourself up about if you don’t achieve it. 

We also need to think about diet and nutrition.  It's easy to eat junk, and people are talking about more snacks and more baking.  Balance this with healthy food too.

Do you get enough sleep? 

If you never give yourself chance to recover from the busyness and challenge of your day, then you’re going to be running on empty.

So that's my six pillar of resilience.  But I'd like to add that with all of these be reflective.  Effective learning is when a person progresses through different stages by being reflective.

David Kolb's 1984 learning cycle is useful for this.  You can even use this about your day, a week or a specific challenge or situation.

  • Have the experience
  • Review the experience
  • Summarise learnings, what did and did not work.
  • Plan for Improvement next time.

The Final Science Bit:

The good news is that recent neuroscience studies now know that it’s never too late for our brain to develop or change.  Neuroplasticity means that the brain forms new neurons and connections until we’re 100.  We can even grow new neurons at any age and also prune back old learnings and neural pathways too.  This means we can re-wire our brain and remove things that we are not serving us well.

It’s a practice.  It’s called practicing resilience for a reason.  Every day we have the opportunity to continue with our resilience and change the brain’s default way of operating.  It might take effort and focus but it is absolutely is possible to do change the way we think and the way we respond so that we increase our resilience for the long term.


If you would like to tell me one thing that you will do from this episode, email me at [email protected] .

If you need help personally or for your employees to reduce their stress, increase resilience and wellbeing (even if they're working remotely!)  get in touch.

The link to the survey I mentioned is here