Leadership resilience is a skill for life


LEON AYO, President of the British Chamber of Business in Southern Africa
Date: 25 October 2019

Leaders are expected to be a source of motivation for their teams, through volatile market cycles and uncertain business environments. When everything within an organisation seems upside down, employees look to their leaders for assurance. It is important for a leader to maintain their composure even under difficult circumstances, but how do they go beyond appearances to actually maintain their self-motivation and keep their teams motivated?


Resilience is like a muscle. It takes experience in the real world to determine whether leaders have developed the character and maturity necessary to be resilient.


Former president of Intel, Renee James, once said: “Develop resilience and be brave. There are days when it is very discouraging. You have to develop personal resilience to environmental things that come along. If you let every single environmental challenge knock you off your game, it’s going to be very, very hard.”


Leaders who want to create impact must expect and prepare for environmental factors which are going to challenge your goals and throw you off direction. However, because we are human, even some of the most focused, motivated and organised people in the world temporarily experience moments when they want to give up.


Below are just a few ways I believe leaders can keep their head up in the midst of discouraging factors.


How can you stay motivated in difficult times?

  • Keep the vision in mind. The company vision is the reason for the company’s existence and should be kept alive during a time of difficulty. Your primary goal should be to ensure the vision of the organisation is not a casualty of adverse circumstances. Knowing that your organisation exists to serve a purpose greater than yourself will help keep you focused and motivated.
  • Keep calm and adapt. A panicked leader sends the wrong signal to employees and creates an atmosphere of defeat. Staying composed helps your team’s confidence in the organisation’s future.
  • Build support. Keeping your team together during difficulty is key to making it through adversity. When you have a cohesive team pulling together, chances of success are higher. Ensure that there is enough support amongst colleagues at every level.
  • Stop to reflect but don’t quit. Give yourself time to consider the circumstances of the adversity but do not rush to hang up your boots. As an unwritten rule, you come out better and more determined after overcoming an obstacle – do not quit.
  • Communicate. Lack of communication can create uncertainty, resulting in speculation amongst employees. Transparent communication helps you take your team along on the journey to recovery.


Resilience is a skill that can help you build not only your organisation but is a skill for life. The greatest leaders have many stories of adversity to tell.


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