Developing Resilience for Tomorrow’s Corporate World – A Vital Strategy for Today’s Leaders

Had a day where things did not go right? Didn’t get that job offer, lost that promotion, customer didn’t like your presentation, your key project was canned, you lost an important client, someone at work sabotaged your best plans!

Ever accelerating changes

We have all at some time or other experienced setbacks in our careers and lives. Such disappointments and experiences help shape us as individuals. The challenge today of course is that we are surrounded by ever accelerating changes that disturb and disrupt any sense of continuity or security that we might have briefly enjoyed. You want loyalty in today’s corporate world then buy a dog! Now we’ve just started to perhaps emerge from the 2008 financial crisis, only to be told, that we are soon to face the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

The coming together of many new sciences and technologies such as Artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IOT) – connected networks, 3D Printing, Autonomous Vehicles, Quantum computing, Nanotechnology, Materials science, Energy Storage, are all said to pose a seismic challenge to our existing world of work. One estimate has suggested that as many as 47% of US jobs could be at risk as robotics and smart computers take the roles of white collar workers in the worlds of financial services, insurance and manufacturing to name a few. Perhaps some readers will have seen the YouTube video of the brick laying machine that does not sleep or need rest apart from the regular maintenance checks. It’s both wonderful and frightening at the same time. A recent Economist article and LinkedIn posting shared the work of the world-renowned consulting and design engineering firm Arup. It showed a dramatic comparison between three bridge components and detailed how some had been designed by traditional human processes while others were the sole product of computing and 3D printing. The work created a huge reaction from a wide range of professionals and engineers. Some extoling the virtues of the “machines” and others arguing for the pre-eminence of the human component.

The Future is a stark and dramatic choice between Star Trek and Mad Max

Tom Streithorst writing in the Los Angeles Review of Books has gone so far as to suggest the future is a stark and dramatic choice between Star Trek or Mad Max in terms of how this new world might play out. Whilst questions such as “will human’s go the way of horses?’ and “will we need to tax the robots?” show the gravity of the potential challenge and the need to even rethink our economic models. Others argue that such predictions are over blown and like many other predictions greatly exaggerated and promoted by “Davos Man” and other elites, keen to pursue or sell the next big idea. Such detractors will point to the continued problems we face in defeating cancer and other life threatening illnesses, our overuse of antibiotics, and our inability to address the world’s climate, food, energy and poverty challenges.

Leaders will need Resilience

But one thing for sure, is that any corporate leader will need to be resilient in the face of all this accelerating change and continued discontinuity. The fact is that life in today’s corporate environment is tough and demanding and continues to challenge many in terms of their work life balance and sense of engagement. Outside of the Google, Facebook, Teslar, Airbnb, Snapchat corporate bubbles, life in most corporate environments is arduous and takes a toll on even the most enthusiastic and committed of leaders and that is where individual resilience becomes crucial.

Resilience is often described as “toughness” and the ability to bounce back after setbacks or disappointments. Today it is an essential leadership skill for survival and growth. At the PPI Network, we believe that resilience is not an innate trait and that it can be developed by leaders as a strong coping strategy to weather today’s corporate trials and tribulations. We see resilience as being made up of several critical behaviours, thoughts and actions.

Key to developing your own resilience are:

A Clear Sense of Perspective & Awareness
Resilience means being in mental control and not allowing yourself to be blown around by difficult events and circumstances. The ability to step back, pause and then understand the context of what is going on and to understand your reactions to the events is vital. All too often people lose perspective on what is happening to them or around them and consequently they can soon start to exaggerate the impact of events and be blown by circumstances rather than asserting control for themselves.

For some leaders, redundancy or losing a job can be a damning indictment or their whole being or career, whereas for the resilient leader, it’s any number of things: a fresh start, a career defining moment, a life changing opportunity, a chance to escape a job which was no longer engaging or enthusing them. Resilient leaders have the ability and awareness to put things into a clear context and not allow themselves to be overly disrupted by adverse circumstances. They have the “ability to take distance.”

Thinking Rationally & Being Aware of Your Beliefs
How we interpret and then react to disappointments and setbacks is a key determinant of our ability to be resilient. Allowing negative internal beliefs or defective thoughts to overpower your rational thinking is all too common. Contrast the following though patterns or beliefs:

Patterns of Belief

Some leaders make very different choices in terms of how they react to circumstances and these are always the result of internal thought processes. By making leaders aware of the mental choices they are making you can start to effect real change in how they operate and see the world around them.

In this context one of my colleagues Amer Jabry encourages and coaches leaders to start with a “Culture of Abundance rather than Scarcity.” This is tied to the notion that people who are resilient see that they have many resources and assets at their disposal, to help them cope with any adverse circumstances. Such leaders envisage clear options for themselves whereas others can be overcome by negative beliefs that they have “no options and choices.” Reluctantly they believe they have no alternative but to accept the cards that have been dealt to them. By actively listening to leaders talk about their circumstances you can often gauge if they are starting from a culture of abundance or scarcity.

Have a Plan & Move Towards It
Knowing what you want in any situation is critical to building resilience. All too often people are not clear in terms of what their needs and goals are, they can be prone to take what is given to them or comes their way. Leaders who are resilient are typically clear about what they want and constantly take actions to move towards their goals even when they are hit by negative experiences or episodes. Resilient leaders rather like good entrepreneurs have an ability to take positive learning experiences from setbacks and to re-adjust their plans accordingly. They do this whilst also keeping their end goals firmly in mind. Being flexible in outlook and approach is another key behaviour.

Be Proactive
The world is full of leaders who have good intentions but sadly that is often not enough to guarantee success. Resilient leaders combine good intentions with action. The ability to be proactive and to commit to action in whatever your goals or plans are is vital. This behaviour is critical when facing adversity or setbacks. It is desire to keep moving forward and making progress even when times are tough that is a hallmark of the resilient leader.

Take Care of Yourself – Invest in Yourself
Just as important as having the right mental beliefs, thoughts and perspectives, so too, is the ability of a leader to invest in their own health and well-being. Taking care of one’s sleep, diet and physical fitness is an essential hallmark in building leadership resilience. Physical well-being is closely tied to mental well-being and when the two are combined you have a leader who is better equipped to deal with the trials and the tribulations of today’s stormy corporate environment.

To find out more about how PPI helps develop Resilient Leaders contact Gerry Buckley at the PPI Network at


About the Author

Mark Thomas: Leading International Expert on Business Partnering

Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas is an international business consultant, author and speaker specialising in business planning, managing change, human resource management and executive development. Prior to working with PPI he worked for several years with Price Waterhouse in London where he advised on the business and organisational change issues arising out of strategic reviews in both private and public sector organisations.