The continuous evolution of the workplace is a visceral demonstration that in life the only constant is change. Fuelled by exponential advances in technology, business leaders are required to adapt and transform their organisations with ever increasing speed. Workplace stress is at an all-time high and the worries of Brexit, political turmoil and economic uncertainty only serve to increase our collective anxiety.
To deliver on business objectives, it’s vital that leaders respond effectively to the constant pressures of their role, as well as the changing world around them. The resilience of leaders and how they handle these demands is likely to have a substantial impact on the performance and direction of their organisation.
Resilience can be defined as an individual’s capacity to adapt positively to pressure, setbacks, challenge and change in order to achieve peak performance. And it is becoming ever more important for business leaders. Fundamentally, we don’t want leaders to merely survive, but actually thrive in response to the purported fourth industrial revolution that is descending upon the global economy.
In a 2019 global survey by PSI, 85% of HR professionals indicated that resilience is either an extremely important or very important leadership trait. The good news is that resilience is not a fixed characteristic. It is a capacity that anyone can develop and enhance through learning activities and experiences.
Having resilient leaders is not just about the individual. Leaders also have a role to play in directly influencing the resilience of their team. By providing positive support, motivation and guidance, leaders will help their people to develop coping strategies and adapt positively to challenging circumstances.
Mindset and resources
Resilience is drawn from several different but related attitudes, feelings and behaviours. Used in combination, these resilience strategies will help leaders rise to the challenges ahead and thrive under pressure:
- Self-belief and a confidence in your ability to address problems and obstacles is a cornerstone of resilient leadership. It means you will be more willing to tackle challenges head on and persist, even when things get difficult. It also helps reduce panic and increase confidence in those around you.
- Optimism and a belief that you will experience good outcomes in life is critical for any leader. It means you recognise that things will get better, even in difficult situations. An optimistic leader will stay positive despite setbacks and this impacts the mood and outlook of their team.
- Purposeful Direction is about a commitment to clear short and long-term goals. Leaders must show a clear purpose and direction in challenging circumstances, and keep themselves and their team focused on the end goal. This ensures that setbacks are kept in perspective.
- Adaptability and a willingness to modify your behaviour and approach in response to changing circumstances is vital. This includes adapting to external changes as well as the people around you. An effective leader will find different ways to achieve their objectives if obstacles get in the way.
- Ingenuity and a capability to establish underlying causes, generate solutions, and drive your organisation to find ways out of challenging situations is key. You also need to support others by helping them think about alternative strategies to overcome problems.
- Challenge Orientation means that you enjoy experiences which challenge you, and perceive stretching situations as an opportunity to learn and grow. Adopting this attitude increases motivation and persistence in the face of obstacles. This will transfer to your team and encourage them to view problems in a more positive way.
- Emotion Regulation is the ability to remain calm and in control of your reactions in stressful situations. Being able to regulate your emotions effectively will help you make rational decisions and continue performing under pressure. Projecting a sense of calm ‘under fire’ is important as employees will be aware of how you react, and quickly pick up on this.
- Support Seeking and a willingness to ask for help is particularly beneficial in leadership roles. It can be lonely at the top, and referring to experts around you gathers different perspectives. Like anyone, leaders need an appropriate release for negative emotions, so talking to discrete peers or an external coach provides a buffer against the challenges of work.
Resilience has an enormous impact on an individual’s ability to lead. These reframing, behavioural and support seeking strategies will help leaders to develop the mindset and psychological resources they need to rise to inevitable challenges and even thrive under pressure. At the same time as leading and supporting a resilient team.
We may not know what lies ahead. However, we do know that having leaders who are able to thrive during challenging times will ensure successful outcomes for both organisations and the people within them.
By Ali Shalfrooshan, Head of International Assessment R&D at PSI Talent Management