Resilience is the ability to be adaptive, intentional, actionable in the face of difficult circumstances. Resilience helps leaders move forward, identify opportunities, and remain optimistic even when they’re faced with turbulent or uncertain circumstances. A Zenger Folkman survey of 500 leaders revealed that resilient leaders were also viewed as the most effective – making resilience a vital leadership competency.
Psychologists have studied resilience for years, and contrary to popular belief, we’ve found that resilience isn’t a static personality trait that you either have or don’t. Rather, it is a process that can be taught, learned, and cultivated. Many people believe that they can never change or that their brains are fixed in some way. However, in reality, our brains are able to adapt, depending on decisions that we make intentionally. You may have heard of the term neuroplasticity. Simply put, it refers to your brain’s ability to continuously change throughout your life.
By shifting what you focus on, your brain will create new neural circuits to support new perspectives and behaviours over time. These new neural pathways are strengthened with repetition. The concept of neuroplasticity is important not only in building a growth mindset, but it also supports the fact that your capacity for resilience can be enhanced with intention and practice.
As a leader, you’re also in a prime position to guide your team towards developing resilience as a practice. Identifying self-awareness practices, embracing authentic personal disclosure, combined with relevant coping strategies, will allow you to model resilient leadership.
Embrace Authentic Self-Disclosure
Authentic self-disclosure involves openly sharing your goals, motivations, intentions, and emotions with your team. A method to model resilient leadership, authentic self-disclosure invites you to use personal anecdotes to highlight a particular thinking process, mental model, or strategy that you’d like to share with your team.
Self-disclosure builds trust, creating a tighter-knit team that is more willing to work towards shared goals. When leaders are able to skillfully self-disclose, they promote a sense of identification, where the team feels more connected to them as human beings. Connection builds trust, which in turn helps people to stay motivated even during times of hardship, and contribute to the group’s shared vision.
And it doesn’t have to end with you. You could ask members of your team to share their personal experiences too. It’s highly likely that once you’ve displayed vulnerability and authenticity by sharing your own challenges, that they’d feel comfortable and safe doing the same. These shared experiences build a sense of connection and engagement through psychological safety.
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Dr. Patrick Gannon
Clinical & Performance Psychologist