Resilience in Leaders: Fact or Fiction?

Resilience in Leaders: Fact or Fiction?

Considering the unparalleled challenges of 2020, it’s no surprise that “resilience” yielded 67 million Google hits. But what does resilience really do for a business sector that seeks to rebuild? How are leaders expected to demonstrate resilience and what good can that even do?

What Does Resilience Mean in Business?

Thrive Global founder and CEO Arianna Huffington describes resilience as the ability to “not just bounce back but bounce forward”. However, many argue that resilience has been romanticized. After being thrown around so often, resilience is often just a buzzword than an actual concept.

In business, resilience can promote a healthy culture, increased engagement, and higher productivity. But unfortunately, resilience is a soft skill often bypassed for more tangible profit-driving hard skills. This lack of investment in organizational resilience may cut corners for training costs, but it heavily impacts long-term progress as company culture takes a hit. A recent survey from Mental Health America showed that 75% of workers have experienced burnout, 40% of whom reported it as a direct impact of the pandemic. In line with this, an Interact/Harris Poll showed 91% of employees felt their leaders lacked communication skills, and 1 in 3 didn’t trust their employers. All in all, this mindset costs US organizations roughly $550 billion a year—and that’s not including losses incurred during the lockdowns.

Susan Roberts, The 1182 Group CEO, summed it up by saying resilience in business is the only way to survive change and it’s up to leaders to set the example. Even though most workforces are still in limbo, it’s important to include resilience in your leadership arsenal as soon as possible.

Translating Resilience in Your Organization

Practice Mindfulness

Rather than sweeping things under the rug, encourage mindfulness in your teams. Show them that it’s important to be aware and present of both the issues and the positive things in their lives. In a Marcus article on building resilience, mindfulness is said to reduce reactivity, improve focus, increase cognitive flexibility, and better interpersonal relationships. When the mind is clear and focused, it is easier to feel capable and in control. Introduce mindfulness exercises like yoga, desk meditation, and even 1-minute breathwork.

Underscore Emotional Intelligence

The pandemic opened the floodgates for mental health discussions. However, recent data from Forbes shows that out of 1,000 respondents, 54% feel uncomfortable discussing their feelings with their bosses. The Salveson Stetson Group discovered that many CHROs found that their job expanded during the pandemic to being “coaches, advisors, and problem solvers” who seek solutions to the myriad of issues that have arisen in their employees from child care to mental health. This indicates that as a leader, you should take be attuned to your team’s sensitivities—and teach them to look out for each other, too. Hold regular check-ins and don’t hesitate to connect with employees individually.

Be a Tenacious Risk-Taker

The last thing most leaders want to do in a crisis is take a risk. But playing it too safe only keeps you away from growth. Resilient teams can overcome adversity because they dare to try again. Taking a leap of faith can instill confidence and agility in your team. Take stock of your current situation, make sure to perfect as much as you can, and then don’t hesitate to go for it—whether that be signing a deal, launching a campaign, or approving a design. Risk-taking keeps people sharp and involved, which can also lead to better employee retention since a report from HR Cloud states that 33% of employees need excitement and challenges to stay engaged.

Being an effective leader in today’s climate is no easy feat. But as more organizations scramble to stay afloat, it’s becoming clear that the secret to a company’s sustainability no longer just lies in profits, but in the stability of the people behind it. That leaders need resilience is a hard fact.


Writer Briana Spence for

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