The Resilience Factor

by Stanley Greene

When struggling with adversity, what enables some business people to snap back while others falter? The answer is resilience, a buzzword in business these days, often mentioned alongside core leadership qualities such as education, intelligence, analytic ability, and integrity.

Of the four qualities above, two are directly impacted by resilience: analytic ability and integrity. Thirty years of research indicate that more than any other factor, including intelligence and education, it's resilience that determines success. Steven Covey has shown how essential integrity is to business, and integrity begins with self-awareness and knowledge of your core values.

Resilience is a vast concept that plays out in all domains of our lives. Research has shown that it is actually made up of seven factors, or inner strengths—Emotion Regulation, Impulse Control, Causal Analysis, Self-efficacy, Realistic Optimism, Empathy, and Reaching Out.

Resilient people tend to be good problem solvers: they can comprehensively and accurately determine the causes of problems and then focus their resources on those causes which are relatively changeable. They possess a strong sense of mastery, based on having achieved positive results through effective problem solving. They are optimistic, within the bounds of reality; they see the future as being relatively bright.

Resilient people certainly experience so-called negative emotions—sadness, anxiety, frustration, and anger—when facing setbacks, but they are good at reining in their emotions in order to remain goal-focused.

Resilience at the organizational level is the aggregation of resilience levels of the individuals that form the organization. Research shows that leadership in most organizations is significantly more resilient than the people they lead. But resilient leadership does not necessarily predict a resilient organization. Resilient leaders know how to create an environment that proceeds to foster resilience throughout an organization.

Resilience is largely a learned set of skills. When we measure levels of resilience before and again six months after our training, we see significant increases, and this boost in resilience translates into more resilient behaviors in business, which impact the bottom line.

One of seven skills of resilience is Optimism, but optimism in the extreme may actually be a drain on resilience. People whose optimism runs well beyond the bounds of reality tend to minimize risk, and they are likely to be blindsided by situations or problems they may have minimized.

Extreme optimists will rarely experience bouts of sadness or depression, but they will also fail to take appropriate action in response to real challenges and adversities that come their way. Resilient people are optimistic, but their optimism flows naturally from being good problem solvers, getting good outcomes, and then feeling good about their successes. Mainly as a result of a belief that they can solve the problems that come their way, they will see the future as bright.

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