Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Jun 25, 2021


Resilience programs are okay, but true resilience starts with leadership. We explore the research and what it means for leaders in this week’s episode.



Hello and welcome to episode 118 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. In this episode we discuss why resilience starts with leadership.

I think there is a problem with a lot of resilience training that is undertaken in our organisations. It’s not the valuable skills and techniques that worry me - of course, we can all work on our resilience. However the undertone in most resilience training is that you are the problem - that it’s solely your responsibility to become more resilient. But sometimes it’s not the level of an individual’s resilience that’s the problem. Sometimes it’s the job, the work environment or the leadership that’s the problem. If we fix those external issues, that might reduce the amount of resilience people need to get through their day. 

I appreciate this is a balance. However I think in far too many organisations, we effectively blame the individual for not being resilient enough without first examining the work environment around them. Instead this approach is all too common - “if you’re struggling with the demands of your job and work environment, here’s a resilience program”.

So what’s an alternative approach?

Researchers Kyle Brykman and Danielle King found that leaders play an important role when it comes to resilience, particularly within teams. They studied 48 tech startup teams to identify what made a difference when it came to resilience and learning.

They found a key element in team resilience is having a leader who is focused on learning and not solely on short-term performance outcomes. The most effective leaders rewarded a learning mindset, even when the person made a mistake. They recognised that learning requires mistakes. So if something goes wrong, the focus from the best leaders is immediately on learning from the experience.

Where leaders encouraged their people to take risks, contribute suggestions and learn from the experience, teams ended up being more resilient and effective. They created a culture with openness, learning and a focus on development.

If you’re considering a resilience program, here are four steps you might start with instead:

  1. Start by creating a work environment that is equal parts supportive and challenging. Help people to feel comfortable to speak up, but also to stretch themselves and occasionally fall short.

  2. Examine your attitude to mistakes. What is the language used around mistakes? What are the first things we say when things don’t work out?

  3. Ask people how they’re feeling. Radical, right? But think back over your career. How many managers ever asked you how you were feeling? Our feelings towards our work provide an insight into our emotional state and the level of resilience we are needing to demonstrate each day.

  4. Remove frustrations. Frustrations soak up will power. As my own research has found, the more frequently you face frustrations at work, the greater the likelihood that you also experience significant negative work-related stress. Wanting to do a good job and being blocked by frustrations is terrible for people. No amount of resilience training can overcome the negative outcomes of unaddressed frustrations.

So, this week, remember that resilience starts with leadership. 

This month we have some very exciting news. Our Leadership Today video on-demand service is now available as an app on Android and Apple iOS devices. You can take all of our video content on the road using your phone or tablet. You can even switch between the web and any of your devices to pick up right where you left off and bring your watch lists with you. The app even lets you download content to watch offline. We have partnered with Vimeo to build this app  over the past few months and couldn’t be happier with the end product. To find out more go to our website at or search for the Leadership Today app in Google Play or the Apple App Store.



Kyle M. Brykman, Danielle D. King. A Resource Model of Team Resilience Capacity and LearningGroup & Organization Management, 2021; 105960112110180 DOI: 10.1177/10596011211018008