Skip to main content

Resilience – dealing with life’s challenges

Resilience: a class of phenomena characterised by patterns of positive adaptation in the context of significant adversity or risk

Snyder & Lopez, 2002

Essentially, resilience is the ability of an individual to bounce back (or roll with the punches) from anything that life throws their way.

A key marker for the development of resilience in someone is positive relationships, particularly with regards to child development, i.e. relationships with parents and teachers/influential adults. However, it is possible to become more resilient as an adult.  The key is the attitude and perspective from which you approach situations; if you practice approaching stressful events in your life with a positive mindset, over time you will become increasingly resilient.

There is a good deal of evidence to suggest that resilience is developed through ‘normalising’ what might be initially ‘abnormal’. Much of military combat training is aimed at normalising the most stressful of circumstances. The British Army uses a system known as battle inoculation which aims to give the trainee an experience of being under fire. Soldiers in training experience the devastating power of artillery from an underground bunker (which also acts as the target!) and take part in live firing exercises during which bullets are fired over their heads and to their flanks. All of this is done at a safe distance and with very strict controls in place, yet is has a very powerful effect. It allows the trainee to be as close as possible to the real situation; it normalises it.

I’m not advocating that you need to go to the same lengths as the British Army, but you can foster resiliency in your team’s everyday lives and within your workplace. You can achieve this through positive relationships and experiences.


Resilience in the work place is crucial for individual and team success. Two major factors establish an environment that will promote resiliency. The first is seeing to the social care of the employees, which gives the individual a positive viewpoint of their place in the company; a leader can provide their team with benefits or set a system of positive rewards for meeting deadlines and completing tasks. Second, you will cultivate resiliency in employees by delegating to get projects finished. As a leader, delegating can build personal resilience by showing your team that you value and have confidence in their skills and talents. You will demonstrate to your employees that you know they are more than competent enough to be trusted and handle responsibility.


Lead from the front – practicing a positive outlook on adversity is a key individual factor for building resiliency as an individual. As a leader, it is your job to set the example for how employees who work for you should behave and relate to each other; be a role model for a positive outlook on problems that may come your way.
If you demonstrate a positive attitude at the top, then that will trickle all the way down through your employees. Instead of seeing failure or criticism as something personal or negative, you should demonstrate that it is an opportunity to improve. A leader who is crushed by a situation will in turn have a team that is crushed by the same situation. A positive attitude in a difficult situation is not naive, its leadership.


Positive, well-adjusted relationships are crucial for building resiliency in the workplace. An important factor in developing resilience as an adult is that an individual feels they are accepted by others. By nurturing relationships between co-workers, it can not only build their ability to work as a team and therefore increase performance, but it can also help each employee work better individually. As a leader, you can create these relationships by finding time to have community activities outside of the workplace.


Being resilient doesn’t necessarily develop from some God given talent, but rather it is a process of learning throughout your adult life. As a leader, you should not only set the example to have a positive outlook but to continuously strive to evaluate your strengths and develop your character.

So What

The workplace can often be a high-stress environment, where projects can and will fail, criticism and discipline will also add to the level of stress that we all feel. If your employees can develop a resilient state of mind, it will keep their performance level high and their stress level low.

However, the first step to building this attitude in your team is by creating it in yourself. Be their role model, be a resilient leader and you can inspire and motivate others to implement that attitude into their daily lives.

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

Jack Welch 

example, leadership, resilience, team development