How to Train Yourself in Resilient Leadership

In adverse times, you need a resilient mind. If you want to develop strong and confident leadership qualities with which to face any challenges, you'll find it helpful to work on the competencies we describe in this article.
How to Train Yourself in Resilient Leadership
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 16 October, 2023

Nature is often the best reflection of resilience. For instance, you only have to see how the trees rise and grow on certain cliffs and, despite the inclement weather and the fact that they’re bordering on the edge of a precipice, hold up majestically. You often also find, between cracks in the rocks, delicate flowers of extraordinary beauty growing.

In fact, it doesn’t seem to matter how hostile a scenario is, life almost always prospers and makes its way forward. Similarly, you can acquire properties of resistance to help you advance in difficult circumstances. Because modern working life often gives you challenges and changes, for which you’re not always prepared.

Indeed, today, life is increasingly defined by uncertainty and the new concept of permacrisis, the accumulation of constant adverse phenomena. The essayist, Nassim Taleb, coined the term, black swans. These are the kinds of events that you consider to be impossible and leave you unable to react.

Faced with this type of existential precipice, the best solution is to be prepared. You must bear in mind that there’ll always be certain factors that are beyond your control and, when you’re faced with them, the best option is to develop new skills.

If you want to prosper in your job, plans, and relationships, in fact, in any area of life, you must shape a resilient mental approach.

Everyone experiences stress and anxiety at work, but there are tools to deal with it.

Five keys to resilient leadership

One example of resilient leadership was Nelson Mandela. As you know, he spent 27 years in prison on Robben Island for fighting against the injustice and violence of his government as a young man. However, when he was released at the age of 71, he advocated for peace and reconciliation. During his confinement, a poem by William Ernest Henley inspired him.

The poem stated, “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul”. It teaches us that, before leading others, people must learn to lead themselves. That’s the key and the backbone to success. What sustains us and drives us forward is resilience.

Research conducted by the University of Yale and Florida (USA) highlights how resilient leadership can contribute to the creation of organizations that are more prepared to face challenges. It’s a practice, an attitude, and an agreement adopted by many.

As a matter of fact, when all the agents in an environment adopt this approach, the dynamics change. There’s advancement, progress, and the strength to adapt to what might happen. Therefore, let’s see what keys the foundations of a resilient mentality provide.

One of the pillars of resilience is a high capacity to form bonds with others. This is how we find our strength.

1. Control, acceptance, and commitment

The three components of resilience are control, acceptance, and commitment. These are the three ideas that you must integrate into your mental register in order to face any problem, big or small, that arises in your daily life.

  • Control means you focus on those areas that are under your control and that you can use to modify or utilize to take advantage of a situation.
  • Acceptance allows you to stop fighting and running away from the inevitable. In fact, it’s only when you accept that certain things are beyond you, that you’re prepared to cope with them.
  • Commitment concerns your responsibility when dealing with unexpected situations. A resilient leader doesn’t evade difficulties or waste time looking for someone to blame. They take on the chaotic event and look for strategies to resolve it.

2. Vision and opportunity

Resilient leadership requires developing a visionary and opportunistic mentality. Ideally, you should work on those skills that allow you to take risks and be innovative enough to take advantage of any challenge. The kinds that provide you with the spark you need to improve your company or social scenario.

That said, being a visionary doesn’t require you to anticipate exactly what’s going to happen tomorrow. It implies knowing how to analyze what’s happened today and deduce what doors will be open for you in the future. Moreover, it means understanding that, between the cracks, light often appears. You can take advantage of it and try new paths and possibilities.

3. Emotional intelligence, a toolbox for adversity

Sechenov University (Russia) conducted a study that highlighted the benefits of developing emotional intelligence programs among public health professionals. Training in efficient leadership implies enabling the individual, not only in a resilient mentality but also in the good management of their emotions.

This translates into mastering the following dimensions:

  • Empathic and assertive communication.
  • Emotional self-awareness and emotional regulation.
  • Motivational skills.
  • Empathy.
  • A mental approach based on positivity. Despite your tendency to look only at threats, you must opt for a more open and hopeful perspective.
  • Good conflict management.
  • Social awareness. Knowing how to establish respectful and meaningful ties.

Cultivating a positive mindset is an indisputable pillar of resilience. It’s the only way to move toward new opportunities without being blocked or feeling imprisoned by constant crises.

4. Stress management skills

Stress is a fog that covers everything on the battlefield and prevents you from glimpsing any danger. Resilient leaders have solid skills to regulate both their own stress and that impregnated in the work environment. They temper spirits and fears. They also inspire hope in their team and encourage every one of them to give their best.

Resilient leaders know that, in times when there are infinite uncertainties and the horizon looks gloomy, it’s important to keep a cool head. Furthermore, it’s essential not to fall prey to fatalism, but to be ready to face whatever comes, accepting it first and dealing with it later.

red figure symbolizing resilient leadership
The resilient leader knows how to energize the environment so that it acts.

5. The ability to establish bonds based on trust

A core characteristic of resilient leadership is the ability to build strong bonds based on trust. After all, difficulties, especially in a company, must be faced collectively. For this to happen, you must build a network of people who are united and committed to the same goal.

Being able to count on other significant figures not only strengthens you but also gives you courage and new visions. In fact, any leader who’s capable of creating a solid base of relationships, support, and happy work teams is better equipped to face any kind of adversity.

When it comes to training your more resilient inner gaze in the field of leadership, it’s a good idea to remember the words of Viktor Frankl. As he advised, you won’t always be able to do anything in the face of certain adverse events, the kinds that have a tendency to regularly arise.

Therefore, at those moments, when you can’t change the circumstances, change yourself by developing more resilient, innovative, and hopeful approaches. Indeed, that’s the key to resilient leadership.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Sistad, Linda. (2020). Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Which impact does emotional intelligence have on leadership?.
  • Southwick, Frederick & Martini, Brenda & Charney, Dennis & Southwick, Steven. (2017). Leadership and Resilience. 10.1007/978-3-319-31036-7_18.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.