Joanne Cook Coaching arrow representing success building mental resilience

Developing resilience – Building leadership skills to thrive in today’s world

by | Apr 17, 2023 | Free resources

In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world, we face a variety of challenges that require resilience. But the good news is that resilience is not a fixed trait; it’s a set of skills that can be developed over time through intentional practice and training. In this blog, we will explore practical activities and essential skills that as a leader, you can develop to build your resilience and emotional courage to thrive in today’s world.
Adversity is inevitable It is true that adversity is central to how all life adapts and grows. When you’re not resilient, you can experience higher distress under pressure. This can quickly derail your physical, emotional and mental well-being.  Resilience levels are not fixed and can vary over time depending on your life experiences and phases. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a high level naturally. We can all find ourselves at some point with a low threshold and in turn, you struggle to cope with stress and adversity.  Resilience is the cumulative knowledge, attitudes and skills that underpin well-being. Resilient people have deeper reserves to draw upon in challenging times, which leads to reduced anxiety and depression, leading to overall better physical health and higher levels of function.  We all need skills to master adversity, rather than avoiding challenging situations, which can lead to a sense of hopelessness and impossibility in the face of difficulty.

During severe personal adversity, 52% of people have post traumatic growth, which means they do not merely ‘bounce back’ but thrive and grow because of adversity.

What is resilience?

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from setbacks, adapt to change and maintain a positive outlook in the face of adversity. It involves a combination of psychological, emotional and behavioural skills that enable you to cope with stress and challenges you face. However, the best part is that everyone can develop resilience with intentional practice and training.

After all, challenges are a part of life and leaders today face a variety of challenges that require resilience. These challenges can be both internal and external and can range from personal struggles to global crises. With the right skills, mindset and emotional courage, you can not only overcome these challenges but you can grow and thrive in the process.

Joanne Cook Coaching walking dog in forest in Berkshire difficult life transition

What is emotional courage?

Emotional courage is the ability to face your emotions, even when they are uncomfortable or painful and act in accordance with your values and goals. It involves recognising and accepting your emotions, rather than denying or avoiding them. Resulting in being willing to take action despite feeling afraid, uncertain or vulnerable. Psychologist Susan David has popularised the concept of emotional courage in her TED Talk, “The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage“. In her talk, David emphasises the importance of developing emotional agility, which she defines as the ability to navigate our inner world of thoughts, feelings and self-talk in a way that supports our well-being and effectiveness. David suggests that building emotional courage and agility involves several key steps. First, we must recognise that our emotions are a valuable source of information and that they can provide insights into our needs and priorities.  Second, we must learn to label our emotions accurately and avoid getting caught up in unhelpful thoughts and stories about our emotions. Third, we must be willing to accept and make room for uncomfortable emotions, rather than trying to suppress or ignore them.  Fourth, we must be willing to act based on our values and goals, even if it means facing our fears or discomfort.

Developing emotional courage and agility takes practice and commitment, but the benefits can be significant. By building these skills, you can learn to navigate challenging situations you’re facing with greater ease and resilience, communicate more effectively with others and lead more fulfilling and meaningful lives.

As a leader, how can you begin to build resilience?

There are several strategies to build resilience, let’s have a look at one important one – building emotional courage in yourself and your team.

Practice Self-Awareness

Emotional courage begins with self-awareness. You can build self-awareness by taking time to reflect on your emotions, identifying your triggers and patterns and examining the underlying beliefs and values that influence your emotional responses. By developing a deeper understanding of your own emotions, you can become more comfortable with discomfort and uncertainty.

Encourage Vulnerability

You can model emotional courage by being open and vulnerable with your own emotions. By sharing your struggles and challenges, you can create a culture of psychological safety where others feel comfortable expressing their own emotions. When you demonstrate that it’s okay to be imperfect and vulnerable, you create a more compassionate and supportive work environment.

Foster Resilience

Building resilience is key to developing emotional courage. You can help employees build resilience by providing resources and support for stress management, mindfulness and self-care. By prioritising employee well-being, you can create a more resilient and emotionally intelligent workforce.

Provide Feedback

Help employees develop their emotional courage by providing constructive feedback that is focused on growth and development. By providing feedback that is specific, actionable and focused on strengths, you can help employees, build confidence and resilience. In turn, helping you communicate more effectively as a leader

Promote Learning and Growth

Foster emotional courage by promoting a growth mindset, which emphasises learning and growth over fixed abilities. By encouraging employees to take risks, learn from failures and embrace challenges, you can create a culture of continuous learning and growth. By building emotional courage in yourself and others, you can create a more resilient, compassionate and effective workforce.

“When we learn how to become resilient, we learn how to embrace the beautifully broad spectrum of the human experience.”

– Jaeda De Walt

5 Practical Activities to Build Resilience

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being present and aware of one’s thoughts, emotions and physical sensations. It can help you regulate your emotions, reduce stress and improve your overall well-being. Mindfulness practices such as meditation, deep breathing and body scan exercises can be integrated into busy daily routines to help build your resilience.

Develop a growth mindset

A growth mindset is the belief that one’s abilities and intelligence can be developed through hard work and dedication. When you adopt a growth mindset, you are more likely to embrace challenges and view failures as opportunities for growth. Developing a growth mindset can be achieved through intentional self-reflection and reframing negative self-talk and limiting beliefs.

Build social support networks

Having a strong support system of friends, family and colleagues can help you cope with stress and adversity. You can build social support networks by fostering positive relationships, seeking out mentors and engaging in networking opportunities.

Engage in physical activity

Regular physical activity can help reduce stress, improve mood and increase your overall well-being. You can engage in physical activity by incorporating exercise into your daily routines, such as taking a walk during lunch or participating in fitness classes.

Seek professional development

Professional development opportunities such as training, coaching and mentoring can help you as a leader develop the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in today’s challenging business environments. You could seek out professional development opportunities through your organisation or by attending conferences and workshops.

In addition to the practical activities listed above, there are several essential skills that leaders can develop to build resilience.

These skills include:

  • Ongoing development of Self-Awareness: Self-awareness involves an understanding of one’s own strengths, weaknesses, and emotional triggers. Leaders with strong self-awareness are better equipped to manage their own emotions and respond effectively to the emotions of others. Leaders can also benefit from MBTI Personality Tests to help them identity areas of improvement.
  • Ongoing development of Emotional Regulation: Emotional regulation involves the ability to manage one’s own emotions and respond effectively to the emotions of others. Leaders with strong emotional regulation skills are better able to cope with stress, maintain positive relationships, and lead teams through change and adversity.
  • A commitment to Problem-Solving: Problem-solving involves the ability to identify, analyse, and solve complex problems. Leaders with strong problem-solving skills are better equipped to navigate challenges and find innovative solutions.

Free Self-Assessment to Build Resilience

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Spotting and reframing negative thought patterns

We hold on to negative thoughts as a coping mechanism and have evolution to thank for this cognitive function which is designed to keep us alert to potential dangers and increase our chances of survival. In today’s modern world our negative bias is much less helpful. In fact, it can hurt you in many areas, especially in developing your overall resilience.

Dwelling on any perceived negative event gives it undue weight in your life. Try instead taking a moment to pause to examine your thoughts, notice what you are thinking and evaluate if this style of thinking is healthy or not for you.

Next time you catch yourself feeling stuck stuck or thinking in a certain way, take a moment to pause and examine if you’re thoughts fall into any one of the below:

Avoiding all-or-nothing thinking

Consider trying not to see everything as a strict success or failure. For example, spilling water is indeed annoying, but it shouldn’t have a bearing on the rest of your day. Being overlooked for a promotion may feel disappointing initially, but other opportunities will arise if you give yourself some time.

Looking only for the negative points

Looking for validation for proof that something is a certain way can sometimes be unhelpful. It might sound like an eye-rolling cliché, but disregarding positive experiences only justify hurtful thought patterns. Acknowledge the negative things that may have happened but also look for positive things, remind yourself of them, keep these examples front and centre. There are more than you think.

Disregarding or feeling bad about emotions

We might have been told when we were younger that it is inappropriate to show emotions such as anger or to cry so we learn to hide or conceal them which is unhealthy.  This also means that when we hide an emotion on multiple occasions it will at some point show itself in an exaggerated way like a beach ball that has been pushed under water that bounces up out the sea.

Acknowledging your emotions is healthy

You’re allowed to be annoyed, angry, or sad. But don’t draw conclusions about your life based on these emotions. Like most feelings, if you allow, name and acknowledge them, they drift away as quickly as they came. It is healthy to feel a flow and range of emotions allowing them to come and go freely you become more comfortable being with the emotion.

Jumping to conclusions

It’s easy to make assumptions, but you likely don’t have the details to accurately assess the situation. So next time someone cuts you off on the motorway, try to think of the whole picture. Their actions or behaviour has more to do with what is going on for them than anything to do with you.

Focusing on what’s out of your control

The world is full of things you can’t change or control, so it’s no use dwelling on them. Instead, focus on what you can change or control. The one thing that you alone can control is your thoughts. Your thoughts are your choice to change should you so wish, which is empowering — thus improving your resilience.

These types of unhelpful thinking patterns called Cognitive distortions developed by Dr David D Burn. Cognitive distortions are patterns of thinking that can negatively impact our mood, behaviour and overall mental health. These distortions involve errors in our perception, interpretation, and processing of information. They can arise from past experiences, cultural conditioning or personal biases and can often go unnoticed as they become habitual ways of thinking.

As a coach I work with individuals to build a greater awareness of these distortions and how they show up as a sure way to develop a more accurate and balanced way of thinking, improve emotional regulation and enhance overall resilience in the face of stress and adversity.

Joanne Cook Coaching yellow umbrella shining resembling building resilience in a storm

So, what does high resilience look like?

If you’re a resilient person, you can share several different characteristics that help you weather life’s challenges. Here are some signs you have high resilience:

‘Overcome any obstacle’ mindset mentality

When you’re resilient, you view yourself as able to overcome obstacles. You know that even when things are difficult, you can keep going until you make it through.

Effective emotional regulation

Resilience surfaces as an ability to manage emotions in the face of stress. This doesn’t mean that you don’t experience strong emotions such as anger, sadness or fear. It means that you recognise those feelings are temporary and can be managed until they pass.

A grounded view of what is in or out of your control

You tend to have a strong internal locus of control and feel that your thoughts which drive their actions or behaviour can play a part in determining the outcome of events. 

Problem-solving skills

When problems arise, you look at the situation rationally, seeing it as an obstacle to overcome and are prepared to adapt your thinking and try to come up with solutions that will make a difference.


Another sign of resilience is showing self-acceptance and self-compassion. You treat yourself with compassion and kindness, especially when things are hard.

Social support

Having a solid network of supportive people is another sign of resilience. You recognise the importance of support and knowing when you need to ask for help.
We will all invariably encounter hard times because this is all part of life. Resilience is a set of skills that can be developed through intentional practice and training. In turn, allowing us to navigate difficult life transitions, uncertainty or ambiguity with curiosity and grace. By engaging in practical activities and developing essential skills, you can not only overcome challenges but also grow and thrive in today’s world. Remember, challenges are an opportunity for growth and development and with resilience, anything is possible. It’s essential to recognise the signs of low resilience and seek help if needed. Low resilience can have a significant impact on your mental and physical health, as well as your ability to navigate life’s challenges both personally and professionally. As part of my coaching practice, I regularly work with individuals to look at ways to increase their resilience and how they can build their personal resources and reserves. Working with a coach or mental health professional can help you identify negative thought patterns and stop the effect of low resilience, especially if that negativity has roots in the past. Human beings have an innate capacity to cope with challenges. We’ve been learning and adapting successfully for thousands of years. Everyone has the capacity to develop new skills and become more aware of how they respond and adapt to experiences.

Coaching for Resilience

If any of this resonates with you and you’d like to spend some time delving more deeply into this topic, feel free to get in touch. I offer free 20 minute, no-obligation calls to discuss how we could work together.