We now live in what has been described as a VUCA world- volatile, uncertain, chaotic and ambiguous. Uncertainties abound: Brexit, US protectionism, food shortages, water scarcity, war and terrorism. We need our leaders to be more resilient than ever. According to the American Psychological Association, ‘’resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress- such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors’’.
In Change Lessons from the CEO (Coetsee and Flood, 2013) we explored the roots of resilience with 27 CEOs in Ireland and the UK, using a semi structured life story approach. This is a proven methodology whereby CEOS reflect on their business and personal lives to enable them to gain understanding and insight into their own drives, motives and aspirations. It was clear from those interviews that those who encounter the most difficulties along the way also develop higher levels of resilience. Difficulties challenge us and strengthen us. I have met and interviewed CEOS with dysfunctional childhoods, victims of bomb blasts, and, battle hardened veterans. All of them pointed to the pivotal learning from these difficulties and how they learned both the capacity to reflect and to empathise with those in distress.
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