How to Be a Resilient Leader in the Face of Chaos


26 October 2017

Conscious Leadership Notes – How to Be a Resilient Leader in the Face of Chaos

Dr Jayanie Kodituwakku PhD

At the end of our performance year we may be asked the following questions:

  • How well did you perform this past year?
  • What did you contribute to your team’s performance?
  • How have you made an impact in this company?

Resilience impacts our performance at an individual, team and firm level. If we don’t see where it evades us, we tend to perform at the same level we always have. Can we consider there is a level beyond what we currently experience?

When things get tough

There is much literature out there on what resilience is. To simplify this, let’s say resilience is our ability to bounce back when presented with a challenging situation. It allows us to continue to perform at a high level.

Depending on who you are, you may have encountered tough situations which could be on a daily basis in the work place or every now and then. Rather than being able to bounce back we may do the following:

  • Overwhelm ensues
  • Get anxious about our work
  • Start blaming our leaders or management
  • Point the finger at people we work with, it’s their fault!
  • Stress takes over
  • Performance at work may drop

I remember once working for a firm where two colleagues were on a ‘performance improvement plan’ – a PIP. They lost their ability to rebound and then it got worse as they started to believe they were not good enough.

Even if we are seemingly performing well at work, something may have to give way in other aspects of our life.

Ignorance is not bliss

‘Be Resilient’ we hear. Life would seem to be much better if we were resilient. So ‘how do I do that?’. When looking at the ‘how’ we gravitate towards a self-development book, a positive affirmation, yoga, a course, mindfulness or some sort of technique. These can help to a certain degree but in all my years working with leaders in organisations I’ve never seen tools or techniques create the sustained impact on resilience desired by an individual. Especially in circumstances when a curve ball is thrown.

We may also be in the misunderstanding that resilience is a ‘quality that may develop over time’ and needs to somehow be acquired through experiential learning or knowledge gained from ‘wise people’.  This is simply not true.

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
Albert Einstein
Theoretical physicist
Albert Einstein

If we look at resilience from a different viewpoint, we can see how to reveal it, than acquire it.

Let’s do this

Firstly not all leaders, this is inclusive of anyone that is making decisions, may have an awareness they could do with some help in the resilience department. It just becomes normal for us to struggle, we get by and cope.

The first thing is to notice when you’re feeling tense, anxious, worried, focus is off or if there’s something you can’t quite put my finger on but know it doesn’t feel right. We can then begin to see the nature of thought and how our experience is being created.

When you wake up to the fact that your feelings are created by a thought-generated perceptual reality, it opens you up to a new way of experiencing the situation.

For example, have you noticed when you’re really angry at someone and then you get distracted by something else, you stop being angry. But then you think about that person again and you become angry.

Resilience is not acquired, it is not learnt and it is not handed down to you from previous generations or an ethereal mystery.

We all have a universal capacity for resilience in any given moment. It is not dependent upon what is going on around us. The only thing that gets in the way is a misunderstanding of where we think it comes from. You have the potential to be resilient right NOW.


 Jayanie is a former PriceWaterhouseCoopers Management Consultant, turned Innovator, Business Advisor and Coach who shows leaders the unexpected keys to Insight; the ultimate leverage point for creating a thriving organisation, team and life. She can be contacted via If you want to know more, sign up to her newsletter.


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