How can Leaders develop Resilience in their followers or teams?

Life does throw us a difficult challenge every now and then that tests our emotional mettle.

These challenges can come in the form of anything really. Lack of funds to finish college, unemployment or loss of a job, a breakup or divorce, death of someone close, injury, illness, failure of a business venture we were upbeat about…the list goes on.

The way we respond to this maze that is life, varies from one individual to the next.

Some of us curse and dwell on the negatives, never seeing a positive in anything. Others adopt an indifferent attitude, and prefer playing it safe than taking on life and bearing its scars in the process. And then there are those who never seem unfazed no matter what hits them. They always appear to be up to the challenge and manage to give off this impression that they have some innate adult secrets to help them manage challenges, secrets the rest of us were never privy to.

The latter lot, we all admire. We look up to them to help provide the life answers we always seem to miss. They motivate and inspire us.

In the process, however, some of us miss an important point. These inspirational figures who seem to go through life unruffled also face challenges. Many challenges. But it’s how they respond to those challenges that makes the difference.

A Lesson. Or two…

But there are things we can learn from these inspiring people. Looking at their life stories, we can pick up a thing or two from their blueprint.

One is attitude. We are always reminded that a change in perspective can make a world of difference.

Another is resilience. The grit to get back on our feet when the rug of life is pulled from under our feet.

And, of course, we cannot forget determination. Some will say hope. Either has a remarkable power on us. Incredible to say the least. An image that comes to mind is that of Louis Zamperini, the Olympic athlete-turned-bombardier cast in the wartime drama Unbroken that is based off an astounding true story.

Andrew Marr: My Brain and Me

The focus here is not on Zamperini, but on another man whose remarkable determination and resilience in life has seen him overcome great adversity.

The man in question is Andrew Marr, and anyone who follows British politics should have an idea who he is.

But allow me.

Andrew Marr is a journalist and one of the most respected political broadcasters in Britain. His flagship politics show on Sunday morning, The Andrew Marr Show, sees him play host to some of the most high-profile political figures around.

But the veteran host has become famous for something else other than his engaging show on the BBC.

In 2013, he suffered a severe stroke that paralysed his left side. The illness forced him to take a nine-month hiatus from his show in a bid to recuperate, the first two of which he spent in hospital receiving extensive physiotherapy to help him walk again.

Through sheer determination, his mobility has gradually improved, although – in a typical dry wit – he describes his walk as more of a ‘drunken sailor’s lurch’.

Recently, the veteran journalist took the extraordinary step of sharing his challenging story of recovery on national television in a one-off documentary dubbed Andrew Marr: My Brain and Me. He has previously said he didn’t fancy being the ‘poster boy’ for stroke recovery, maintaining that he just felt he owed it to other stroke victims to document his experiences in public (given his profile) for their benefit.

The Highs and Lows

In the film, he details the ups and downs of his path to recovery and the private determination he has had to conjure to do so. He hasn’t made much progress in the last year, and it is for this reason he decides to seek a range of trailblazing stroke treatments in Florida in a bid to see if his left side will improve.

He makes a return to the hospital that saved his life for the first time where he meets the consultant who informed his family he might not make it.

He also encounters other stroke survivors whose brains have been affected in different parts (and ways), and joins doctors who are trying to make inroads in solving not just the mysteries of the different effects of stroke, but also the mysteries of the most complex matter on the planet: the brain and the resilience it requires to recover. There are others who are hit so hard that they are reduced to dependency on other people. Some though (about one in eight) die within a month of suffering a stroke.

Never Say Never

Anyway, all through the film, Marr is not deflated and downbeat. Quite on the contrary actually. He’s focused. Upbeat. Never feeling sorry for himself.

‘There is no human crime like self-pity’, he says.

And in a heartfelt ending, he shares some wise words with all viewers:

‘If there’s any lesson from this, it’s worth never giving up.’

Looking at the journey he’s been through, and the way he soldiers on with determination, Andrew Marr is nothing short of admirable, inspiring and one of the most resilient people of our times.

It is definitely an attitude Leaders could borrow to navigate through the challenges of life & business.

These days, he finds it a challenge to do many of the things he once took for granted, be it physical activity – he does not swim anymore, neither does he cycle, or ski – or perform as simple a task as tying his shoelaces or even slicing up his own steak in a restaurant.

But what the hell – he can work well, he can get on the tube, follow his hobbies, get up and down the stairs, and generally he has a good life, he says, while not oblivious of the fact that there is a big chance he may never get his whole range of movement back.

Talk about focusing on what you got rather than what you haven’t got!

Last Word

And this, dear readers, is the message I want you to reflect on.

Life may never be as picture-perfect as we may want it to be, but there is always something worth living for. However small. The difficult part is trying to establish what.

And that is where resilience comes in.

Rather than being negative and bitter, we can choose to replicate those inspiring figures who never seem deterred by setbacks.

And the key to that? – attitude and resilience (you can also throw determination and/or hope in there if you like).

These two go hand in hand, and the best thing about them is that they are not reserved for a select few. They can be learned. By anyone!