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Leadership Development: Resilience

A person is described as resilient when they are able to ‘bounce back’ from problems, challenges and set-backs quickly and effectively.  Being ‘calm in a crisis’ or being ‘everyone’s rock’ is not necessarily the same as being resilient.  The demonstration of resilience requires the presence of difficulty, challenge or upset.  The most resilient people don’t simply bounce back unscathed, but rather they learn more about themselves through failure and often return stronger and more competent.

Resilience in the workplace is important for lots of reasons, not least of all being the wellbeing of employees, but this has added importance in teaching, where stress, workload and the unrelenting pace of change are amongst a number of reasons given by those leaving the profession in their droves.  

For teachers in post, resilience allows for learning from setbacks, the identification of areas for development and the willingness and ability to access help and support when it’s needed.  All of these things can help sustain wellbeing as colleagues are able to feel a sense of control, a clear knowledge of themselves, a sense of purpose and an open channel of communication with co-workers and leaders.  Alternatively, a lack of resilience in the workplace can result in low confidence, low motivation, difficulty in concentrating and ultimately reduced performance.

How can leaders develop resilience in their teams?

Resilient leaders can inspire teams and help members develop their own resilience. It makes sense therefore, for leaders to invest in their own self-awareness and development first. The following five strategies, rooted in positive psychology, can support leaders in building a resilient approach to their leadership.

  1. Focus on your communication style.  Are you being as clear in your communication as you can be? If you often feel annoyed or frustrated by a colleague misunderstanding your words, then it’s possible that you’re not.  Make sure that colleagues leave meetings with a clear idea of the action points and exactly what is expected of them.  You can read more about meetings and developing communication here.
  2.  Be open to feedback and model taking constructive criticism well.  Treating all feedback (good and bad) as a learning and development opportunity can require a shift in your thinking and practice will make perfect (or more importantly, permanent).  Seeking out a coach (or a colleague who can sit, listen and question) can help you reflect on your strengths and areas for development.
  3. Build and foster trust in your team.  Spending time getting to know your team and building positive relationships will pay dividends if you ever have to engage in difficult conversations and deliver challenging feedback.  Remember that your team members are ‘humans first, professionals second’ (Mary Myatt). Bringing more of 'yourself' to work will help you build trust with your team as they understand you as a person, not just a 'boss'. Getting out of the way and letting your team get on with the responsibility you have delegated is another way to positively affirm your trust in them.
  4. Become a ‘change champion’ even if you really aren’t all that sure. Change is inevitable, whether it comes from our Senior Leadership Teams or from the Department for Education.  It is not something that can be avoided without creating problems further down the line.  In times of change, your team will appreciate positivity and a determination to find a way through over a doom merchant or a nay sayer! Be the person who sees the opportunity in difficulty, rather than the other way around!
  5. Commit to becoming more emotionally intelligent.  You can’t manage the emotions of other people, but you can choose to acknowledge emotion and manage your own reactions.  Getting to know your teams and what motivates, worries and concerns them will help you plan to pre-empt potentially emotionally challenging situations.  You can’t remove the emotion, but demonstrating empathy and acknowledging how they are feeling can go a long way to helping you and your team members ‘bounce back’ from difficulty.

I hope you have found these tips to developing resilient teams useful.  To read more about our leadership programmes, visit our website.

Tagged leadership