Resilience, the ability to regain balance and bounce forward after setbacks or adverse events, has become a hot topic in 2020. In sustained, deep recessions like we are facing currently, resilience and any form of progression or adaption becomes more vital than ever. There are several inherent factors that play a certain part on every individual’s level of resilience and response to stress namely: genetic, epigenetic, neurobiological, developmental, and psychosocial but the greatest influence is how much an individual can learn and adapt from any type of setback. According to Dr. Brenda L Martini (‘Leadership and Resilience’), people who develop the ability to overcome obstacles and challenges from a young age, harness an almost ‘inoculating effect’ of resilience against major challenges.
Resilience in sport
The frequency of losing in sports i.e. tennis teaches you how to manage setbacks regularly from a young age. The fiercely competitive pressure moments teach, not to merely fall back on our habitual ways of responding (the natural response) but to find new adaptive or creative solutions. Unsurprisingly, resilience was voted the most sought after skill or attribute that tennis coaches are identifying and developing in their young tennis players (at the 2018 National Tennis Coaches Conference at the NTC).
A recent study by Ernst and Young (821 global leaders took part in the survey – published in Forbes magazine) revealed how female leaders capitalised on their resilience acquired through sport, to boost their success in the corporate world. The study revealed the core leadership skills learned through sport that helped in shaping their success was; teamwork, building confidence, and dealing with setbacks (resilience).A staggering Ninety-six percent of the 328 global female CEO’s surveyed, played sport, and 52% played sport at university level.
Resilience can be learned
Fortunately, we now know that resilience is a mental skill that can mainly be learned and taught which means we can improve our resilience through training and personal mastery of our thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Resilience is a key indicator of success, more than education, training, or experience says Jim Collins, management researcher in an HBR article ‘How Resilience works’. In the book ‘Good to Great’, Collins explains the ‘Stockdale Paradox’ (7-year war prison survivor, Admiral Stockdale) which is a central concept to resilience in crises, where the brutal reality of the situation is accepted and always followed with a search for an optimistic solution.
Dean Becker from Adaptive Learning Strategies further explains the truth that resilience determines success whether you are in the Olympics, cancer ward, or in the boardroom. (HBR article - 2002).
The article (‘How Resilience Works’) demonstrates how after years of study, resilient people all display the following three behaviours:
Resilience in business
Business leaders had to adapt, innovate, and recreate to survive and thrive in 2020. There is evidence of many success stories in and amongst all the casualties of 2020.
A ten-year-long research study called the CEO G-Nome Project (2017 – HBR) tried to find the core successful behaviours in CEO’s. It revealed the four core behaviours that distinguished successful CEO’s from the rest:
Furthermore, 90 % of successful CEO’s scored high on dealing with setbacks, treating mistakes as learning opportunities, and displaying a growth mindset approach.
Interestingly, even delivering reliably (behaviour most closely related to CEO success) includes the action of rapidly making direction changes (pivoting), exactly like we have witnessed from companies who thrived in 2020. Next month I shall drill deeper into the concept of resilient leadership in organisations. I will discuss in more detail how mission, purpose, character, risk, change management, and team building all play their part in developing resilient leadership.