5 Ways to Be a More Resilient Leader

Leadership resilience is often associated with managing through incidents or change, yet leaders are met with challenges every day that can tap into their emotions, drain their energy, and redirect their attention.

These common work stressors may include managing conflict, receiving unexpected news, or navigating ongoing technical change. Who hasn’t been kept awake at night with hijacked thoughts over seemingly mundane issues?

There are a number of capabilities that leaders can cultivate that will serve as a foundation to manage and cope effectively with these everyday challenges. It turns out that building resilience is a combination of the brain and the heart.

Here are some findings that can help leaders develop resilience:
  1. Don't ignore the negative: Resilient leaders see negatives and risks, but they don’t dwell there. They are actively aware, but filter out negativity by reframing issues in a more proactive direction.

  2. Face the fear: Most leaders have some degree of fear and resistance to conflict. They can also be guilty of not wanting to look further, avoiding what may be revealed. Leaders who understand their fear and manage through it are more likely not to get emotionally derailed making decisions.

  3. Be a realistic optimist: Effective leaders don’t always present the optimistic side. They adapt to bad things by understanding what they can control and what they can’t, knowing they have a choice in how to respond.

  4. Cope actively: Resilient leaders read and identify their emotions, consciously suspending them as they explore facts. They look at all sides, including their own biases. This “cognitive re-appraisal” allows them to manage distracting emotions while they communicate and influence others.

  5. Seek support: One of the most important findings in the science of resilience is having social support. Effective leaders are good listeners and supporters. They cultivate a safe and supportive network around them. Persistent venting and blaming of others has been shown to decrease resilience and serves as an important caveat. The key is in the balance.
Leaders make space for important visioning and strategy, yet we are all human and get distracted with stressors that can sap us. Take a resilience audit and watch where your thoughts get hijacked throughout the day. Understanding how resilience is built day-by- day may help you focus on what matters, and you just might feel better, too.

Holly Seaton, Ph.D. is a Coaching Practice Leader and The Leadership Challenge® Facilitator with Sonoma Leadership Systems. In her executive coach and consulting psychology role, she helps leaders give meaning to their LPI feedback and move from intent to leadership action. Holly is the in-house coach for all Open Enrollment Leadership Challenge® Workshops and can be reached at holly@sonomaleadership.com.

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