4 Ways to Increase Your Resiliency as a Leader

A common myth is that the way to deal with the pressures of middle and senior management is to work harder. We like to think that extending work hours and multi-tasking are ways to be more effective at work.  The truth is, this thinking is flawed.   We know from studies of stress, that performance does not always increase as a result of putting more pressure on yourself. [tweet this] Initially, additional pressure might lead to improvements in performance, but then performance levels off and ultimately may decline as the pressures associated with work increase.   In the figure below you can see the relationship between pressure and performance.

When the pressures of being in the middle of an organization and working exceptionally hard  result in stress, it is time to think about developing resiliency, the ability to bounce back from obstacles and setbacks. Too much pressure or stress results in narrowed thinking, increasing the likelihood of flawed reasoning.  It also turns on the stress response in the body, releasing a tsunami of chemicals and hormones.

Being able to increase your resiliency is necessary in today’s uncertain and volatile managerial world.  The question is how can you develop it?  As a first step, it is helpful to identify those situations in which you feel overly pressured.  What triggers those feelings?  Once you are more attuned to what produces stress and feelings of pressure, you can then work on ways to build a reserve of resiliency.  There are many strategies you can use.

Reframe how you think.  One of the most helpful tools is to think about how to reframe a situation.  This is where knowing what triggers your feelings of stress is helpful.  When you get that feeling in your gut that you are overloaded, threatened, or in conflict, think about other ways to characterize the situation.  Reframing requires examining a situation from a different perspective and asking what else could be going on.  For example, if a valued staff member resigns, you might focus on the loss, or you can chose to reframe it as a chance to hire new talent.  There are some basic questions you can ask yourself: “How could I benefit from this situation?” and “What might my interpretation of the situation be missing?”  CCL’s Leadership Development Program offers an opportunity to rethink your situation at work and to consider alternative perspectives on both your situation and your response to them.

Get some sleep.  We all know that sleep offers numerous benefits but many in leadership positions are willing to sacrifice some sleep to get more work done.  Sleep is important because it allows the brain to go from taking in new inputs to encoding, processing, and integrating the days experience in a way that makes it available for future use.  It is a built-in biological source of resilience that many leaders do not take full advantage of. [tweet this] Adequate sleep can result in enhancements to attention and creativity—two capacities needed in positions of leadership.

Find a substitute for sleep.  Sometimes in this 24/7 world it is just impossible to get the right level of sleep.  If you just can’t do it, then take a restorative break during the day.  For example a short nap, a walk, a yoga break, or break to meditate can help.  These practices take your attention away from the specific situation and give your mind a chance to move past stressful thoughts.

Explore the power of positivity.   Research by Barbara Fredrickson and others has demonstrated that positivity helps people recover from setbacks.   Positivity is a broad term to cover many positive emotions including love, joy, appreciation, hope, serenity, and amusement.  Fredrickson and others have found that when people are in positive states of mind, they think more broadly than when they are in negative states of mind.  Savor your feelings of positivity so that they last. One way to do this is to keep a gratitude journal, where you note on a daily basis the 3-5 things you are most grateful for.  This exercise can help you to look for the good in a situation.  Positive emotions can build sources of resiliency that you can have in reserve when facing adversity at work.

Resiliency is a key component of CCL’s Leadership Development Program (LDP)® for mid-to-senior level leaders. Click to the photo to learn about it.

Resiliency is needed not just at work, but also in our personal lives.  Having this sort of inner strength is helpful for all that life can throw at you—divorce, losses, illnesses, and accidents.  Resiliency gives you the strength to bounce back and be at your best.

What strategies do you use to enhance your resiliency?


About Marian Ruderman

Marian is a Senior Fellow and Director, Research Horizons at the Center for Creative Leadership. An author of numerous articles, books and assessments, Marian is currently leading a CCL project on applications of neuroscience to leadership development. With a BA from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Michigan, Marian has been at CCL for 28 years where she has developed expertise in many different aspects of leadership studies.
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7 Responses to 4 Ways to Increase Your Resiliency as a Leader

  1. avatar Vimax says:

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  2. I love you article a question for you. Do you think it is important to move forward after bouncing back. I believe it is.

    • Thanks for the comment. Yes, it is important to move forward after bouncing back. However, to move forward you need some time to recover. It is important to move forward after a setback at a comfortable pace.

  3. avatar Kamran says:

    Indeed we are often stressed up even before getting to workplace. The coffee is not ready, the toast burns, the traffic light turns red on ‘me’, is too cold or too hot, my favourite parking spot is taken …. all these little ones add up and by the time we get to work we are already stressed up 7 out of 10. Can I recognise the small stressors? When I work well with the small ones my capacity to work with bigger stressors increase. Just like a muscle that needs to tune up and build up gradually.

  4. avatar Benyam says:

    Great lesson! To survive in this VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex & Ambigious) world, we need RESILIENCE for sure! Thx for sharing.

  5. Good comments! The good news is that resilience can be developed and shared. It is not easy, but you can learn to expand your abilities to bounce back from road blocks and obstacles. Others can be a great a source of support during this time.

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