Why resilience is the number priority in leadership development

If one gap in leadership development has become visible its resilience, or lack of. 2020 has pulled the rug from everyones feet, and those that have the inner ability to recover quickly have faired far better. As the generational mix within our organisations tips towards the millennials and GenZ, we see that that grit, inner toughness, needs developing as a priority.

GenX (early 40’s to later 50’s) and the boomers (60+) are a pretty resilient bunch. They were raised that way. No one was there to pick them up if they fell, so they learned to get back up and carry on. With endless recessions, restructures and redundancies, they learned to be adaptable, brave and flexible. Where the over 50’s struggled is the self-care and self-compassion that goes hand in hand with resilience. When things go wrong it can be painful, shameful and pride takes a fall. Rather than learning how to manage the hurt, they dusted themselves off and carried on.

In fact, as parents, they wanted to protect their own children from the school of hard knocks and minimise stress, pain and hurt. So where the Millennials and #genz  are emotionally and mentally aware, in many ways they weren’t taught inner resilience. 

And so, when developing the next generation of leaders, making resilience and self-care are a priority. Teaching the next generation how to be resilient, courageous and autonomous is essential. They already know how to collaborate and build relationships. They’ve got that mastered. They know how to look inward towards their own thoughts and feelings, and to look wider at global impacts and social responsibility. They are teaching their elders how to excel.


GenX sit somewhere in the middle. Autonomous, relationship focused and focused on fun and freedom, they are the perfect bridge to help develop the next generation. That’s why I wrote the LeaderX book. It’s a book to encourage GenX to step up, take control and lead with impact, being the bridge to develop organisations of the future.

How to develop resilience

Resilience is critical in adaptability, agility, flexibility and uncertainty. That’s the world we now occupy and it isn’t going to change. That’s why it is a development priority.

1. CREATE environments of safety where its OK to stretch, try, ask, grow. Think of leadership as a guide, a servant, a coach, rather than a tyrant who uses fear and shame to deliver results. It’s a space where it’s OK to fail, as long as you learn and improve.
2. GIVE feedback to help improve and support. When things go wrong, have the open conversation, be clear, and be kind. When things go well, celebrate and praise.
3. HAVE powerful conversations that serve to understand, explore, open minds and hearts. Telling, instructing and yelling won’t build resilience. It builds fear and resentment. It shrinks capability. Instead, treat people as adults and have the real conversations to help people grow.
4. ENCOURAGE courage. Role model it, champion it, celebrate it. As a leader, all eyes are on you. How you show up signals how to be courageous, and part of that is saying “I got it wrong”, “I made a mistake” – “but I tried”
5. DON’T rescue. If someone makes a mistake, fails or is hurt, don’t rush in to rescue or fix. Instead coach them through, so they learn and develop they own skills and wisdom

That’s leadership in practice. That’s leadership development.

And don’t forget to listen to the LeaderX podcast here