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Navigating leadership with psychological resilience skills

by John Saunders
9th Dec 21 5:30 pm

Psychological resilience is a key skill for business leaders in any industry. It helps us to face, recover from, and adapt quickly to stressful and difficult situations. The better a leader’s psychological resilience skills are, the more effectively they can tackle stressors, and the better the performance and engagement of their teams. But just how can psychological resilience skills enhance leadership?

We’ll explore what psychological resilience means for leaders in business, as well as some tips for building up your psychological resilience skills so that you can become a better leader.

What is psychological resilience?

Psychological resilience is all about how well you handle stressors or setbacks. Think about how well you adapt to changing circumstances: do you pick yourself up quickly and find it fairly easy to readjust, or do you find yourself overwhelmed? If adapting to change is something that comes naturally, then you’ve likely developed some strategies to build psychological resilience.

People tend to be seen as psychologically resilient if they have a generally positive outlook, can adapt to difficult situations, and manage excessive negative emotions during more challenging times. They’re not necessarily the ones who always succeed and don’t make mistakes, but rather the ones who are able to learn from their mistakes and grow. These skills are like muscles, so the more chances you have to use them, the stronger they’ll get.

Why is psychological resilience important for leadership?

While psychological resilience is a skill that can benefit anyone within the workplace, it is especially beneficial to those in leadership. Business leaders face an ever changing world, and are being asked to adapt and make decisions quicker than ever before. So, the ability to face setbacks head on is an incredibly important skill for leadership teams to have.

Not only will psychological resilience skills benefit you and help you to get through adversity, but these skills will also help your team. When leaders are overwhelmed by stressors, they are often less likely to demonstrate important leadership and people management skills such as setting ambitious goals, demonstrating faith that you’ll reach those goals, and recognising performance. Instead, stressed leaders can be much more passive, which filters down to their team members and can therefore have an impact on performance and attitudes to work.

On the other hand, resilient leaders are able to engage in creative problem-solving, offer more encouragement, help to break down silos and blocks between different teams, and generally help to improve their employees’ wellbeing. Not to mention that businesses with resilient leaders often see overall performance improve.

How to build psychological resilience as a leader

So we’ve seen the incredibly positive effect that psychological resilience skills can have when it comes to leadership, but how do you effectively build up these skills?

Focus on your physical health

Maintaining your physical health sets an important foundation for your mental health. Things like your diet, the amount of exercise you get, your sleep schedule and hydration levels can all play a role in your stress levels and, ultimately, can impact your mental health. Taking steps to prioritise and improve your physical health will help you when it comes to facing stressors or difficult situations. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, you’re remaining physically active and eating well, and you’ll find yourself feeling more prepared to tackle challenges.

Make relaxation a priority

Relaxation is an essential part of helping our bodies to rest and recharge, which in turn makes it easier to face stressors and challenges. When we’re already exhausted, or haven’t had a chance to rest, it makes it harder to face difficult situations. Our minds are already under stress, so adversity just adds even more onto your plate. Finding ways to relax, be that spending time with family, exercise, engaging in arts or listening to music, is a crucial part of helping to increase your psychological resilience.

Learn from your mistakes (as well as your successes)

Nobody likes making mistakes, but they’re a key part of how we learn. Within the context of psychological resilience, we want to be able to face our mistakes head on and adapt to the consequences. Build up psychological resilience in practice by considering what your past mistakes might have taught you, or what you can learn from them. The more you get used to identifying these past mistakes, the easier it will be to see mistakes and challenges as learning opportunities rather than setbacks.

Reframe the situation

Psychologically resilient leaders are able to see a challenge or problem and quickly identify opportunities for growth or possible solutions. They don’t want to give up, and they don’t get stuck in the negative. This can be quite a difficult skill to build up, but you can start small with everyday challenges to exercise your reframing muscles for the next time there’s a bigger obstacle to overcome.

Build and lean on your social network

Humans are social animals, so it makes sense that one of the best ways to build your psychological resilience is to lean on friends, colleagues and family. Your social circle acts as somewhat of a buffer against stress by giving you people to sound ideas out with and offer you support when you’re struggling. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, even if you just need someone to listen to your ideas.

Developing psychological resilience skills will help to make you a stronger leader, both in terms of how well you can handle adversity and how well you can inspire and encourage your team. With training from Positive Leaders, you can give your leaders an edge to help them adapt and thrive.

About the Author: Brian Marien is Co-Founder and Chairman at Positive Group. Trained in medicine with a Masters in Health Psychology, Brian is dedicated to improving psychological wellbeing, resilience and employee performance.

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