Recently we have been delivering Mental Well-Being and Resilience programs to leaders for one of our clients, and it has become apparent that there is a flawed definition of Resilience that results in not only less effective leadership but lowered resilience.

The flawed definition of resilience that I am hearing is this:

Resilience is being bullet-proof and being able to handle everything that is thrown my way (Flawed Definition of Resilience).

I have two key issues with this definition.  The first and most significant, is that at some point in time there will be a bullet big enough to crash through the bullet-proof vest, at which point there is likely to be a massive break-down.

My second issue with this definition, is that this approach sets up a barrier to experiencing emotion and ultimately disengages the individual from their people, their loved ones and their friends.  Being an emotionless being IS NOT being resilient – it is in fact IGNORING emotion.

Being bullet-proof results in isolation from support and avoids taking responsibility for actions and decisions.  Ultimately, while it may 'feel' resilient, it is in fact not resilient or high performing.

A Better Definition of Resilience

Resilience is being able to quickly reform to the original state following a significant setback or challenge.

Every one of us experience setbacks and times when we feel broken.  Resilience is not ignoring our experience of being broken, but rather being able to process and own the emotional experience and then proactively work toward returning to original state.  

Being resilient starts with gaining absolute clarity of one’s personal purpose.  This clarity of personal purpose (goal and reason for the goal) allows us to contextualise our immediate emotional experience, thereby decreasing the impact of the emotional experience.

A second key element of resilience is taking responsibility.  This means sometimes putting one’s hand up for mistakes, which can in many cases invoke negative emotion.  Rather than avoiding emotion, we need to embrace this negative emotion, knowing that by taking responsibility for what is our responsibility builds resilience.

A third key element of resilience is utilising our support networks, connecting with our friends and family, and managing our self, i.e. implementing resilience building strategies.

Being resilient IS NOT about ignoring emotions and being ‘bullet-proof’, but in fact it is about embracing emotion and taking full responsibility for your decisions and actions.

If you have a view that resilience is about being ‘bullet-proof’, then I ask you to consider what will happen when that bullet-proof vest fails. 

My final advice for being resilient:

Do Not Complain – either Act or Let it Go!

About the author

Gregory Bayne is one of the Directors of Total Leader and Coach Solutions Australia.  Greg works with senior and executive leaders assisting them to make shifts in the way they work, the way they think and the way they live their lives to become better leaders, colleagues and team members. Greg has a particular focus on assisting leaders create a culture or accountability and high performance. His expertise and knowledge is around building and developing a culture of accountability, leading high performing teams, and getting the most out of people to deliver the highest standards of work. We cultivate sustainable behavioural change in individuals, teams and organisations to drive a performance culture.