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Will Mitchell


Director of Consulting

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Blog: What Boris can teach us about resilience


As nights draw in during early October, and the rain beats down outside, another political party conference season continues and we see some leaders blossom while others blunder!

While George Osborne spreads apocalyptic doom across the country of slashed benefits spending and ever worsening public finances, we can rely upon Boris Johnson to raise our spirits with his unpredictable and, it seems, unscripted appearances.  
What is it about this maverick Mayor of London that has captured the public’s imagination and enabled him to bounce back from numerous attempts to discredit both his professional and personal life?
The whole subject of personal and organisational resilience has justifiably received more focus over the past few years, as both leading individuals and businesses have been tested in their ability to bow like a willow, rather than snap like an old oak in a storm.
Boris Johnson displays many of the traits which recent research into resilience has shown are critical for the ability to withstand the constant criticism and challenges that come with any senior political position. 
While some show a stiff upper lip or furrowed brow, Boris seems to positively thrive on the media spotlight, having developed the ability to simply not take himself too seriously – or at least appear not to.
The elements of resilience
The elements of a resilient individual have been shown to relate to self-belief and optimism as a starting point. Boris has these in spades, as shown before the Olympics when others dared to suggest that the London games would be a fiasco.
He has clear adaptability and ingenuity in his ability to respond to the unexpected, which given the spontaneity of many of his speeches and interviews, has perhaps been cultivated since childhood. He’s definitely up for a challenge and is always looking for stretching experiences, whether flying down a zip wire or launching a new bicycle campaign. 
But it’s the management of emotions which puts Boris in a league of his own. He can gush with enthusiasm and energy at some opportunities and show frustration and anger to make a point. But it always seems that Boris knows exactly what he is doing and why he is doing it. 
He has the clarity to know from whom to seek support and advice and to know when a PR stunt might go a little too far. Through his experience and practice in these environments that would appear uncomfortable for most, Boris is able to keep calm, focused and above all, humorous.
This is why the public love him and why they will vote for him in a time of bleak news and austerity. Many leaders of big corporates could learn from Boris in connecting with their employees, understanding their needs and painting a clear vision of success for them.  
It’s no big secret – appreciating the key components of personal resilience can help us all, whoever and wherever we are in the workplace. Through this, we can identify our pressure points and how to seek greater reassurance and “bouncebackability” when the bad or unpredictable happens!

Will Mitchell is director of consulting at talent management consultancy, A&DC.

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Will Mitchell

Director of Consulting

Read more from Will Mitchell

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