The One Thing Resilient Leaders Do Differently

by Kate Snowise

The one thing that sets them apart is a resilient mindset.

Resilience is the ability to withstand pressure and challenges while maintaining your psychological and physical well-being. Rather than waiting to act until burnout has hit, practicing a resilient mindset is a proactive measure.

If you create mental strength before you really need it, you’ll have one more tool in your toolbox to help you avoid the despair of hitting rock bottom.

What is a resilient mindset?

Research from Stanford psychologist Dr. Alia Crum and her team found that your stress mindset—how you interpret the pressure you are facing—matters immensely when it comes to the impact stress has on you. Those who can see stress as enhancing and recognize the benefits of being put under pressure, do better in almost every measure including physical health, exam scores, and self-reported psychological well-being.

The takeaway from this research is this: What we think about the demands we face matters. If we think a little pressure is a good thing, we see it as a challenge. On the flip side, if we think pressure is overwhelming, it will be. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The best leaders have a natural tendency toward a challenge response. They perceive pressure as a motivator rather than a debilitating barrier. They see opportunity before difficulty, and they resolve to rise to the challenge even when there are barriers standing in their way.

On the upside, even if you don’t naturally lean toward a challenge response to pressure, by being aware of your reactions, you give yourself the ability to change your perception. Below are three ways you can begin to change your stress mindset.

1. Ask yourself why

Start by thinking about the underlying why driving you to take an action. By understanding why the thing you are doing is important, you align your mindset with a purpose —and that makes you more resilient.

It may be that you took this job to develop new skills that you know will benefit you in the future. Perhaps you’re working hard now to make sure your family is well supported and has everything it needs. Or maybe you get a deep sense of personal fulfillment from making a difference through what you do.

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Next time you feel overwhelmed, try zooming out for a moment and remembering why what you’re doing matters.

2. Focus on how you will grow

Some degree of stress is necessary if you’re pushing yourself to reach your full potential. You don’t get to grow without ever pushing your edge, learning new things, or stepping out of your comfort zone.

It’s normal to be nervous the first time you have to write a report by yourself or give a speech, but the next time will be easier. This is true of every time we stretch ourselves.

Extending into new territory isn’t necessarily fun, but it is this very pressure that allows you to get better. You can become more resilient by intentionally looking for what you have to gain out of a situation. Instead, consider how you will grow and learn through the process.

3. Change your perspective

Recognize that you have the ability to change your mind, and think about pressure differently. You can choose to look at a stressful situation as an opportunity.

The whiny employee might provide you with the opportunity to become a better leader as you help them reinterpret their frustrations and look for solutions. The traffic on your daily commute may give you perfect uninterrupted space to learn new things through audiobooks or podcasts.

By practicing self-awareness you can override your default thinking and reframe your experience. The more you do this, the easier it becomes to catch yourself in unhelpful thought spirals.

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