Resilience and Leadership

“The difference between winners and losers is how they handle losing, says Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Professor at Harvard Business School and Author of Confidence and SuperCorp.


Would you agree?


One might argue that sometimes circumstances larger than us may push us to the ground. Although we can’t control such circumstances, we can still control the way we react to them. When we are motivated by a strong sense of purpose and we really care about the outcome, we become more resilient.


Resilience is a key skill for today’s leaders as there never was a more stressful and competitive global environment in which they needed to thrive. The future of their organizations relies on their level of flexibility and elasticity. How fast they get back on their feet is what determines whether they are still in the game or not.


In my previous article, I spoke about the importance of vulnerability in leadership and how there is no room for ego in leadership anymore. Resilience seemed like a natural next topic to discuss, as Rosabeth Kanter says in an article published in HBR, “Complacency, arrogance, and greed crowd out resilience. Humility and a noble purpose fuel it.”


Now that we have proven that resilience is an important skill to have, let us look at what leaders need to do in order to become more resilient. Here’s what I learnt:

On June 2013, I attended the new coach orientation with the Center for Creative Leadership where I had to go through a series of assessments that I later got certified in, one of which was the Workplace Big 5. This instrument measures many personality traits amongst which one sub-trait is resilience or “rebound time”. I was very surprised to discover at the time that resilience is one of my strongest personality traits. Looking back at my life and all the challenges I faced; from surviving the civil war in Lebanon for 14 years in spite of the fact that I was wounded during an explosion, to being bullied in school and losing my father unexpectedly in 2009, I realized how my reaction to these challenges time and time again contributed to building my resilience.


Resilience isn’t something you are born with. It develops over time as you prove to yourself that you can get back on your feet every time you are knocked down. We are supposed to get better at resilience as we mature and face life’s hurdles and obstacles. Simply defined, resilience is a person’s ability to recover quickly from unfortunate circumstances. In other words, it is our ability to bounce back after life throws adversities our way.


Challenges can cause an imbalance that different leaders would react to differently. Some would surrender to the stress of it all, some would be thrown off course and will be unable to think straight or make the right decisions, and some would externalize their feelings through displays of anger and frustration directed towards members of their team who could totally be innocent bystanders. But worst of all is when leaders succumb to self-doubt. When self-doubt kicks in, there is no room for resilience. Unless the leader realizes that he/she is out of balance and acknowledges that they are unable to stand back up.


Realization is the first step towards building resilience. Once the imbalance is brought into awareness, instead of being thrown off course you can start engaging in activities that will help ground you and offer you some perspective. 


I found that there are essential elements that feed resilience. These are: strength of character, an unwavering set of values, a growth mindset, a support system and a centered, peaceful mind.

Here are some tips that can help you whenever you are faced with a challenge or every time life surprises you with a bad turn of events.

1-      Realize that you are out of balance.


2-      Tap into your support system for sustenance. People in that support circle, friends, colleagues or family, can be your sounding board and their optimism can rub off on you.


3-      Keep a list of your most inspirational values. Values are what will most likely push you forward and reconnect you to a purpose that will drive your motivation.


4-      Reconnect to that strong part of you that showed up in the face of adversity in the past. What are some of its values and how can you bring them to the surface at the most difficult times?


5-      Adopt a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset. As described by psychologist Carol Dweck in her book mindset, “There are differences in performance between individuals who assumed their abilities were innate and fixed, and those who held a model that their abilities were fluid and subject to change and growth. Those with a growth mindset performed significantly better on difficult and challenging tasks.” A fixed mindset aggravates the situation because it gives room to inner critics to run the show and accelerates the downward spiral caused by negative thoughts. In this situation, instead of tapping into your resources, you find yourself on a dead-end with no idea on where to go next or any capacity for creative problem solving. People with a growth mindset constantly remind themselves that they are on a journey and welcome setbacks as lessons that will help them learn and grow in the process.


6-      Find your own spiritual anchor that will help you through the tough times. Whether it is meditation or prayer, connecting spiritually helps you find the inner peace you need when life is too challenging.


7-      Make sure your body is up to the challenge. Whatever your exercise or wellness regime is, stick to it. Your body is more likely to succumb to the first signs of stress if it is not well taken care of

Now it’s all up to you! How will you handle losing the next time around?


About Rawan Albina

Rawan Albina is a successful self-made Executive and Leadership Coach who has coached more than 150 individuals from 60 different nationalities all over the Middle East. She is one of the eleven Professional Certified Coaches (PCC) in the Middle East. She also served for 10 years as a manager and leader with multinationals Tetra Pak and Nestlé.

Rawan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Economics and is a graduate of the prestigious Coaches Training Institute. She is certified in the FIRO and WPB5 assessment tools. She is a proud member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC).





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