Resilience & Its Role in Empowering Women Leadership

By: Vivi Soryano



Research conducted by, McKinsey and Company, Huffington Post, Harvard Business Review, Athena Centre for Leadership Studies and the AMA Women’s Leadership Center, among others, all agree that resilience is a vital tool, particularly for women, for driving and sustaining our successes in leadership.

Resilience Defined:

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “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, workplace, and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.”

Women Leaders at workplace:

When women take senior positions in their working lives, the pressure they face increases. On one hand they juggle with the stress they face due to the unknown and the ambiguity in the workplace due to the pandemic.  On the other hand, the gender bias and societal expectations weigh them down.  And when the extra responsibilities in their home life add to the emotional burden, they feel overwhelmed and are unable to snap back.

What can help?

To be able to thrive in this challenging position, women leaders need the ability to keep their cool under stress and the emotional burden they feel. The foremost skill that leaders need at this time is to be centered and resilient. Even if there are anxiety provoking situations popping up at work or at home.

Science behind:

Based on the research in neuroscience, we now know that our thinking brain disconnects when our body goes into panic, overwhelm or anxiety. This is the result of the survival response of fight or flight. Under pressure and stress, we need to keep our prefrontal cortex online to be able to bounce back. Centeredness practices enable us to keep our problem solving and rational brain active, even though we are triggered by stress. 

When we are equipped with the skill of centeredness, the stress responses like:

  • panic,
  • anxiety,
  • seem overwhelmed
  • yelling on a coworker,
  • irrational decision making,
  • the inability to reach a decision,
  • the inability to speak up your truth; overrides.

When a leader realizes that she is carried away with the stress or panic, she needs to take time for herself, and get balanced. In other words centered so that she can respond with her prefrontal cortex, the basis of her leadership qualities. The centeredness practice helps leaders to continue thinking rationally, reflect, discern, make decisions based on their competencies and be creative.  This enables leaders to stay more present, grounded and sharp.

Due to the neuroplasticity of the brain, more the leaders practice the skill of centeredness, more the neural pathways lead into the cortex. This both increases the resilience of the person and their leadership presence. Hence, they thrive.

Moreover, when leaders know how to regulate themselves and be centered, can help regulate others .This enables leaders to provide psychological safety at the workplace. According to Google’s research on the quest of building a perfect team the quality of psychological safety enables teams to be rated as twice more effective.

Some Takeaways:

  • Leaders who are resilient gravitate towards unbiased and flexible thinking.
  • They are aware of their own prejudices and triggers for reactivity.
  • They can pause, reflect their own experiences and the experiences of others and then accordingly adjust and fine-tune themselves.

This ultimately leads to an all-round growth of an individual, team and organization as a whole.

Hence women who are resilient leaders, can stay focused and mindful even when they face a stressful challenge. They show strength in their ability to minimize the impacts of distractibility and disengagement. Moreover their ability to regulate others in stress contributes to a resilient workforce. As a result resilient female leaders , are in their element at work, tactically agile and lead with purpose and optimism.

Hearing stories of how other people got back on the horse, reminds us that failure and setbacks are a shared human experience and reinforces our faith in our capacity to rebound, too. Along with reflecting and learning from the stories of others, why not create one that is yours to inspire the world.

Read more about resilience by our team SparkUs here.

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