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Executive Resilience

Updated: Feb 17, 2023

It's good to see that the subject of wellbeing is now being seriously examined in the workplace. Many workplaces have begun to introduce programs to improve wellbeing and resilience. However, as the authors of a 2015 study (Robertson, Cooper, Sarkar & Curran) noted, many workplace programs are selected on the basis of intuition and how the programs are marketed, rather than a clear understanding of what resilience is and how it can be improved.

Stress and resilience

To understand resilience, we firstly need to understand the impact of stress on the mind and body. Negative stress arises when the problems we are dealing with require more of our energy and resources than what we have available.

The digital economy is bringing about fundamental changes in the workplace, causing disruption through competition and rapid change. As a result, workplaces are increasingly stressful environments. Stressors include work overload, lack of resources, role ambiguity, relationship tension and threats to job security. Ongoing negative stress threatens our health and wellbeing.

Impact on Others

A leader’s wellbeing determines the level of personal resources available for effective leadership behaviour. When these resources are compromised, leadership can become ineffective and even destructive. Negative stress affects a leader’s capacity to manage competing priorities. Poor quality decisions can leave others confused and disengaged. Negative stress can be contagious, undermining teamwork, creativity & morale.

Brain patterns of stress and resilience

From a brain perspective, stress-based responses develop into neural patterns (or habits) of disconnection that threaten our sense of belonging, our energy and motivation. They also interrupt our capacity to learn and improvise. Resilience acts like an antidote to stress, helping us to respond to challenges in a way that leaves us and others well.

Resilience can be learned

Resilience is an ability that can mean the difference between adapting and thriving, or burnout.

It is now possible to measure resilience according to cortical blood flow, which shows the areas of the brain that are firing in response to environmental challenges. This knowledge increases our confidence in the usefulness of resilience as a concept and as a set of skills that can be learned.

Resilience comprises six key skills areas:


Having a sense of purpose & direction, a sense of control, self worth & confidence in your abilities


Being able to regulate emotions and manage negative environments


Problem solving & resourcefulness, readiness for change


Bouncing back, maintaining optimism through adversity


Having support networks, healthy connections, being able to manage perceptions


Maintaining healthy habits in exercise, nutrition and sleep

Ongoing benefits

Because resilience is about increasing capacity, there are many benefits beyond managing stress. These include:

  • being present, even when things are tough

  • not having your perceptions and judgment clouded by concerns or agitation

  • working through difficult situations and learning from the experience

  • being more effective

  • growing wiser

To read more about how you can improve your resilience contact us.


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