top of page

Reflective Resilience

When his early morning run has started the temperature was ok. But now, with the sun beating down on his already sweaty forehead, it was not so enjoyable. Now, it was just about surviving, getting to the end.

This view of the runner, just managing to get to the end, is how many of us see resilience, just get through this to better times, just survive.

In 2016, in a period of intense pressure at work, I had the image of a man clinging to rocks as torrents of water crashing down the river threatening to pull him off. The man clung on with all his might, thinking this water will ease soon, but yet it didn’t it kept flowing. That is how it felt at the time and how we can view resilience, just the strength to cling on with the hope better times will come. But resilience is much more than that.

Last month I met with 3 friends to record the August Leadership Lounge podcast on Resilience. It comes out this week. One of the things that came out from our discussion is that resilience is not just about surviving it is about thriving. It is not just about ‘getting through’ but ‘learning through’. There is no better quote than the definition by Carole Pemberton when she describes resilience as:

'The capacity to remain flexible in our thoughts, feelings and behaviours when faced with a life disruption, or extended periods of pressure so that we emerge from difficulty stronger, wiser and more able.'

In March 2017, the torrent of leading in education did indeed pull me off the rocks as my job as headteacher was suddenly ended. As I worked through sudden job loss, friends would say to me, “how did you cope with that?” In truth, my answer was not ‘because I am learning from this experience to make myself stronger, wiser and more able’. My answer was that I wanted to tell a story that I was proud of afterwards. Therefore, in truth it is about a mindset that sees the situation not as something that controls you, but as a situation that you still can make choices in.

The skill of reflective resilience is the third of the 4 key skills we need as leaders at this time of the challenge of leading in a Coronaworld:

  • Focused Flexibility

  • Engaged Employees

  • Reflective Resilience

  • Centred Creativity


Each of my guests on the August Leadership Lounge Podcast had stories to tell of things they had endured. Bullying, life threatening injuries to loved ones, personal challenges and extreme physical challenges. For each of them though it was not a case of survive but how could I thrive in this situation. So how do you do this?

In my research, I’ve come across 4 qualities a resilient person has

  • Commitment – know their purpose/goals

  • Challenge – see the difficulty as a challenge to learn from

  • Control – they focus on what they can control in the situation

  • Compassionate – care for others but don’t bow to peer pressure

Thriving starts with knowing your purpose and why you are doing it. It gives you perseverance. Knowing what you can control in a situation, enables you to see yourself not as a victim of circumstance, but a leader that can shape some destiny from the situation.

Mindset of Resilience

​​I remember leading my son’s football team when they were 15 years old. They arrived at the top of the league side and as we walked across the field from the changing room, a number of them said, “They are going to thrash us.” I remember replying, “It’s about the game in the mind. If you believe you will lose, you will. If you believe you can achieve and make small wins, then you have a chance.” Now they since meet me and quote ‘the game in the mind’ at me as they recount my phrases that I used with them. But the truth is it does make a difference. In case you are wondering, we were 2-0 up at half time and the opposition coach was going ballistic at his team. We held on to secure a 2-2 draw

Perception of the event

In my research, I’ve come across 4 elements of perception that a resilient person has

  • Permanence – views it as temporary

  • Pervasiveness – doesn’t let the situation pervade everything

  • Personalisation – doesn’t blame themselves – reflects on circumstances/others that contribute to it

  • Positive future – see brighter days ahead that they can take the learning into

So, when you face the challenges of leadership, because they do certainly come often like that metaphorical torrential river, then ask yourself these questions:

  • Will this last forever?

  • What else in life is going ok?

  • What is contributing to this beyond me? What have I contributed?

  • What can I learn from this?

  • Who can support me as I go through this to help me manage it and learn from it?

In chapter 1 of my book 'Everyday People, Everyday Leaders' where I talk about redefining failure, the key to this is seeing failure as a learning experience. The same can be said of challenge. It then doesn't become the thing that will break you, but the teacher to make you stronger, wiser and more able.

This is the third in the ‘Leading in a new territory series of blogs.

Everyday Leader is here to inspire and equip everyday people to lead. We have a range of resources on our website to support you .

Everyday People, Everyday Leaders book:

Everyday People, Everyday Leaders videos:

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page