Let us consider leadership under stress. Resiliency can help us deal with stress. This article provides an insight on and summary of techniques to be resilient.

Sometimes normal life is challenging and stressful. Court leadership has experienced extraordinary stress: ongoing leadership challenges, resource limitations, pressure for accountable, efficient, and stable operations, and now, COVID19. Some good has come from these challenges:

  1. Remote work has been enabled; productivity and collaboration tools engaged, and new (or expanded) digital services deployed.[1]
  2. Court leaders are “seeing lemonade everywhere” and have found opportunities for agility, trying new things, collaborations, incredible efficiencies, new capacities and opportunities to reconstruct how our courts function,[2] and
  3. Stress causes us to be on our toes and to be motivated.  According to former Navy Seal Brent Gleeson, crisis makes us better leaders, since it:[3]
  • Demands humility,
  • Combats complacency,
  • Expands comfort zones,
  • Makes you agile,
  • Broadens perspective,
  • Forces organization,
  • Drives innovation,
  • Fuels resilience, and
  • Prepares you for the next challenge.

Resilience helps us deal with the challenge and alter the way we view adversity. It is a muscle that leaders can recognize and know how to flex. Resilience is the: 

  • “ability to overcome challenges of all kinds-trauma, tragedy, personal crises, plain ole life problems-and bounce back stronger, wiser and more personally powerful”[4]
  • capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, flexibility, pliability (Oxford Dictionary)
  • springing back, rebounding and not being readily discouraged (Webster’s Dictionary)

As I was preparing for this article and researching materials, I realized that I had collected quite a variety of books and articles on the topic of dealing with a crisis and developing leadership resilience.  Reviewing them has been helpful in writing this article and managing my own perspectives of these times. I summarize three sources below.

A. “How Resilience Works”[5] – this is an article from the Harvard Business Review. It’s a quick read with clear-cut techniques for resilience. It notes how some people suffer hardships and do not stumble, instead finding the way forward.  The article notes that resilience remains a puzzle, but notes three defining characteristics of resilient people, stating these can be learned as a natural “reflex” when faced with trying to understand the world:

  1. Accept reality and prepare or train yourself to survive,
  2. Find meaning in terrible times and avoid viewing yourself as a victim, and
  3. Improvise, be inventive, and make do.

B. The Resilience Factor [6] – This book is about resilience and the importance of managing self-talk. I had the pleasure of seeing one of the authors, Andrew Shatte, speak in person in 2016.  His address was motivating. I decided to buy his book which I later shared with a friend, and bought a second copy for myself. This source asserts “keys to finding your inner strength and overcoming life’s hurdles.” They are:

  1. Know yourself
  2. Take care of yourself
  3. Problem solve
  4. Make lemonade out of lemons
  5. Learn from experience
  6. Accept setbacks
  7. Recognize emotion
  8. Keep time – past, present, future in perspective
  9. Think creatively, flexibly
  10. Ask for help

C. The Power of Resilience[7] – This book also focuses on the importance of mindset and personal control. It reviews five areas for attention, and includes worksheets to focus on resilient living.  The five areas are:

  1. Mindset
  2. Communication
  3. Self discipline and self control
  4. Connections
  5. Proactivity

In addition to these sources above, here is a compilation of items to practice resiliency. They are from a variety of sources (books, articles, and blogs) and are grouped in general categories: mindset and self-awareness; focus; linkage to goal and mission; communication and connections; and action.

In closing, my own personal examples and thoughts on how to seek resiliency, include:

  1. When faced with a challenge, ask three questions: what should I do: more of, less of, or differently?
  2. When discouraged, ask yourself:  what can I learn from this? what am I meant to learn from this?
  3. Remember to make use of a professional network, or cultivate a supportive network.
  4. Try to learn and grow in every situation and challenge.
  5. Self-evaluate – consider what do you value?  Ask what do you want?  Use a Mindmap or chart to plot your thoughts. I have used this process many times; here is an actual example, where I had plotted out what I want my future to be.  The central theme is placed in the middle and then branches are created with brainstorming on actions to take.

Here are some bonus thoughts on developing resilience, these from an article on how to build mental toughness – “Eight Daily Habits to Build Your Mental Strength:”[8]

  • Be willing to learn
  • Be willing to adapt
  • Be a giver
  • Think outside the box
  • Believe in yourself
  • Be responsible
  • Be self aware
  • Assume control

Note:  As this article was in final review, I received my copy of Success Magazine for July/August 2020.  In it, an article titled “Resilience Reset” caught my eye.[9] The article notes five strategies for surviving uncertain times and to gain strength.  These mirror other practices outlined in this article:

  1. Develop a resilient mindset,
  2. Get clear on your priorities,
  3. Find unlikely gratitude,
  4. Swim toward your lighthouse (a calm in the storm), and
  5. Practice mind over moment.

It doesn’t matter if you fall down … what matters is that you get back up

Suggested Resources (in no particular order)

The Resilience Factor, Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte

The Power of Resilience, Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein

Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics, Dan Harris and Jeff Warren

Success Magazine,  https://www.success.com/

Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/

“On Managing Yourself” – Harvard Business Review

The Truth About Leadership, James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

Toughness Training for Life, James E. Loehr

Harvey MacKay, columnist and speaker, (https://harveymackay.com/)


[1] Knell, Noelle, “COVID19 Proves the Essential Nature of Government,” GovTech, 6/2/20, accessed via https://www.govtech.com/analysis/COVID-19-Proves-the-Essential-Nature-of-Government.html?utm_term=READ%20MORE&utm_campaign=Nigerian%20Hacking%20Group%20Targets%20State%20Unemployment%20Systems&utm_content=email&utm_source=Act-On+Software&utm_medium=email

[2] McCormack, Bridget, Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice, in National Center for State Courts webinars –  5/1/20 on Developing Plans for Resuming Court Operations, and 5/19/20 on Expanding Court Operations II: Outside the Box Strategies, available at https://vimeo.com/414071907 and https://vimeo.com/420651688

[3] Gleeson, Brent, “9 Ways Crisis Makes You a Better Leader,” Forbes, 3/31/2020, accessed via https://www.forbes.com/sites/brentgleeson/2020/03/31/9-ways-crisis-makes-you-a-better-leader/#25cdee5743e2

[4] Crum, Becky, “You Must First Put on Your Own Mask,” Arizona Child Abuse Prevention Conference, Arizona Department of Child Safety, July 2015, Glendale, AZ.

[5] Coutu, Diane L. “How Resilience Works,” originally published May 2002, On Managing Yourself, HBR’s 10 Must Reads, Harvard Business School Publishing, 2010.

[6] Reivich, Karen and Andrew Shatte, The Resilience Factor, Three Rivers Press, 2002.

[7] Brooks, Robert and Sam Goldstein, The Power of Resilience – Achieving Balance, Confidence, and Personal Strength in Your Life, McGraw Hill, 2003.

[8] See https://www.success.com/8-daily-habits-to-build-your-mental-strength/, 2/17/2017.

[9] Grady, Anne, “Resilience Reset,” Success Magazine, July/August 2020.

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