In recent blogs I’ve looked at the components of resilience in light of several conferences I have attended. What has struck me since then is the question of how to develop resilience in leaders. Many high level leaders will have progressed to a senior position based on their performance and resilience any way, but as the pressure mounts at these levels leaders have to be mindful of the need to maintain and enhance their resilience.

There are three key skills that leaders need to master to do this:

Build Self Awareness

Leaders must have an accurate understanding of the ways in which they are resilient before they can look at where they can develop further. It is important they are honest about their own attitudes and behaviours in relation to this.

Many leaders may not have reflected on their thinking style and behaviour when under pressure for example, but diagnostic questionnaires combined with 360° feedback from others can be useful aids in the reflection process.

Understand Different Resilience Tools and Techniques

There are various tools and approaches which can be used to enhance differing aspects of resilience; from coaching on stepping outside your comfort zone to developing an optimistic style. But there is not a ‘one size fits all’ technique. Every leader will have their own resilience profile with differing strengths and development needs.

Also, different methods can be more or less relevant, depending on the specific circumstances, so the tools and techniques need to be matched to a leaders’ specific resilience profile. The individual can then work out what works effectively for them.

Reflect and learn from Experiences

One of the key skills to develop personal resilience is an individual’s ability to reflect and learn from challenging experiences rather than dashing from one situation to another. A useful model to help do this is the experiential learning cycle (e,g, Kolb, 1984) which outlines the process individuals can follow to understand and reflect on their experiences, and consequently modify their behaviour through four phases.

Have the Experience

Put yourself into challenging situations which will give you the opportunity to develop and broaden your skill set. Draw on different resilience tools and techniques according to what suits the situation.

Review the Experience

After the event, try to explore all the details of your experience. Think about the context, what you were thinking, what you did, what the impact was and the outcome. If you drew on specific tools or techniques, how well did these work? Were they appropriate for the situation?

Conclude from Experience

Try to summarise what you have learnt from the experience and how you have dealt with the situation. What approaches worked? What did not work as well as expected?  

Plan Action for Improvement

Based on your conclusions, plan the next actions so that you are able to do a better job next time. Are there other tools or techniques that you could try?

Developing resilient leaders is still a fairly new concept for some businesses, but as the economic uncertainty continues this will become a key topic as businesses look to thrive in times of change.

For more information about leadership resilience, download our free whitepaper, Thriving Through Change: Developing Leadership Resilience and others at:

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