Resilience and leadership success

December 21st, 2020

resilience forest tree

Resilience is critical to leadership success

“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.”

― Steve Maraboli

Resilience is foundational to success.

One constant in life is the inevitable flow of perpetual changes. In a turbulent environment, including this incredibly challenging year, it becomes challenging to feel settled. We crave control yet face constant, stark reminders that we lack control.

The uncertainty of this year thus generates anxiety and fear and grief (not only for people lost, but also our lifestyles, routines, and pleasures lost). Whether we unconsciously adapt in healthy or in unhealthy ways, we must remember that we can control our response to the world’s turbulence. A conscious, constructive response forms resilience.

Leaders who have learned and practiced resilience neither ignore the world’s circumstances nor succumb to them. They persevere knowing they must constantly build upon and maintain their vision and values.

Resilience starts by concentrating on what you control. Some considerations:

Insight – Identify stressors in both yourself (internal) and in the world (external). Resist the temptation to ruminate and simply name all those stressors without judgement. You cannot face problems unrealized.

Self-awareness can derive from meditation, whether formal meditation (e.g. Waking Up with Sam Harris) or informal activities where you busy your body but free your mind (such as walking or doing the dishes). Another way to gain perspective is to seek people who support you and can provide constructive advice.

Adaptability – Identify your own influences (experiences, family, friends, formal groups) and be open to adjust if the new ideas represent new opportunities for growth.

Understanding that change can be upsetting, distinguish between the discomfort of change itself versus the real impact of something new. Do this by weighing the pros and cons of any change. This may require a couple passes to remove any emotion and focus on the results.

Compassion – Always forgive yourself for being imperfect. During these times, many of us have drifted to less healthy diets, less exercise, and less happiness. Forgiving yourself leads to a faster path of resilience and resurgence than adding the stress of beating yourself up to the grief of a newly unsettled world.


When possible, show the same compassion to others by realizing they are possibly crushed too. Before reacting to someone’s behavior, remind yourself their stress may not be immediately obvious. Being flexible in meeting others halfway and expecting some obstacles will make moving through life easier.


Optimism – Define the meaning and purpose in your life. Write them down to emphasize their importance. Be grateful you made it through so much turmoil this year and recognize that setbacks could allow for impressive learning.

We can decide whether to see a crisis as a loss or as an opportunity. This sounds simple but is incredibly difficult to achieve. Take heart in the science that optimism actually helps you to live longer.*

With a resilient mindset, you can move towards your dreams. So how to get there.

Resiliency is not an elixir but more like a muscle. It must be built and trained to stay strong. Some actions to boost resiliency:

Positive Self-Talk – Face stress with the knowledge that while you may not control your circumstances, you often can find ways to take control of your life. Treat yourself the same way as you would a friend. What advice would you give to someone you love? Look in the mirror and give the exact same advice.

Connect with Positive People – Review your current relationships and contact people who support you. Maybe you have a specific problem to address or maybe you have general anxiety. Either way, the next step is to reach out. Also, distance yourself from anyone who does not support you.

Help People – Find a way to help others. The idea of assisting others exactly when I need help may seem counterintuitive at first. However, this approach should allow you to positively channel your energy, forget your stress and learn instead, and show the benefit of support.

Nourish Yourself – Schedule time for your needs. You should schedule recurring appointments for exercise, healthy eating, connecting with others, and at least one fun activity a week. Utilize your calendar essentially as a to-do list to prioritize your needs, which in turn allows you to best serve others.

Persistence – Practice resilience with intention. You should see changes over time but not necessarily immediately. Just like building muscles, gains in resilience take time to notice. If you are not seeing desired results in any area, change your efforts or seek professional advice.

Success is a long game that becomes worthless if you are scared or dejected. Resilience will allow you to build the best you to serve others and to prosper professionally.


Briars has indeed been fortunate to have known and worked with the author, Benjamin Friedman, for a number of years.  Benjamin is the CEO and Founder of Build Scale Grow which supports passionate leaders to activate their visions by installing the systems, processes, and people needed to expand successfully.


* Footnote: An optimistic outlook ‘means you live longer’

Kate Jolly

Kate co-founded Briars in 1991 with Andrew Brierley. She specialised in tax law and today continues to advise clients on international operations, particularly land, expand and exit! In her spare time Kate is a Past Master of the City of London Guild of Entrepreneurs and a Director of CCARHT (Cambridge Centre for Applied Research into Human Trafficking).