learning & change

Composure and Resilience

Composure and resilience enable leaders to navigate challenges, make sound decisions, and inspire their teams. This article explores the concepts of composure and resilience, their importance in leadership, and practical strategies to develop these qualities, drawing on insights from Brene Brown, Martin Seligman, Nicholas Taleb, Kristen Hansen, Angela Duckworth, Bill Adams, and William Anderson.


What are Composure and Resilience?

Composure is the ability to remain calm and in control during stressful situations. It allows leaders to think clearly and act decisively, even under pressure. Resilience, on the other hand, is the capacity to recover from setbacks and adapt to change. These traits help leaders maintain stability and guide their teams through difficult times.

Composure and resilience are crucial for effective leadership. Composure helps leaders make clear decisions during challenging times, allowing them to assess situations objectively and choose the best course of action. Resilient leaders can overcome challenges and inspire their teams to do the same, promoting perseverance and determination. Real-world examples include CEOs staying calm during crises, guiding their companies through turbulent times, and team leaders staying focused and motivating their teams despite obstacles.


Developing Composure and Resilience

Developing composure and resilience requires deliberate practice and the adoption of specific strategies. Here are some practical approaches based on insights from influential thinkers:


Cultivate Grit (Angela Duckworth)

Grit involves a combination of passion and perseverance towards long-term goals. Angela Duckworth emphasises that leaders must identify what motivates them and commit to these passions. By developing grit, leaders can maintain their motivation and drive even in the face of challenges.

  • Identify and Pursue Passion: Discover what you’re passionate about and commit to pursuing it.
  • Develop Persistence: Cultivate a mindset of persistence and determination towards your goals.
  • Practice Resilience: Embrace setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow stronger.


Practice Optimism (Martin Seligman)

Martin Seligman’s work on learned optimism highlights the importance of maintaining a positive outlook. Optimistic leaders can navigate difficulties more effectively and inspire their teams to stay hopeful and focused. Developing optimism involves actively challenging negative thoughts (and language) and fostering gratitude and strength-based approaches.

  • Challenge Negative Thoughts: Actively challenge pessimistic thoughts and replace them with more optimistic ones.
  • Focus on Strengths: Use your strengths to navigate through challenges and setbacks.
  • Cultivate Gratitude: Regularly practice gratitude to enhance positive emotions and resilience.


Embrace Vulnerability (Brene Brown)

Brene Brown’s research underscores the value of vulnerability in building authentic connections and resilience. Leaders who embrace their imperfections and set clear boundaries can foster trust and empathy within their teams, leading to stronger, more resilient relationships.

  • Embrace Imperfections: Recognise and embrace your vulnerabilities and imperfections.
  • Set Clear Boundaries: Establish and maintain clear boundaries in your relationships and life.
  • Practice Empathy: Develop empathy towards yourself and others to build connections and resilience.


Encourage Antifragility (Nassim Nicholas Taleb)

Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s concept of antifragility suggests that systems and individuals can grow stronger through stress and challenges. Leaders can cultivate antifragility by embracing uncertainty, diversifying their experiences, and viewing failures as valuable learning opportunities.

  • Embrace Uncertainty: See volatility and uncertainty as opportunities for growth and adaptation.
  • Diversify Experiences: Seek diverse experiences and exposures to build resilience.
  • Learn from Failures: View failures as learning opportunities and use them to improve and grow.


Cultivate Mindfulness (Rick Hanson)

Rick Hanson advocates for mindfulness to enhance self-awareness and emotional regulation. Mindful leaders can stay present and calm, even in stressful situations, which helps them make better decisions and build emotional resilience.

  • Practice Mindfulness: Engage in regular mindfulness practices to enhance self-awareness and emotional regulation.
  • Savour Positive Experiences: Deliberately savour positive moments and experiences to build inner resources.
  • Cultivate Kindness: Foster kindness and compassion towards yourself and others to enhance resilience and well-being.


Composure and resilience are critical traits for effective leadership. They enable leaders to navigate challenges, make sound decisions, and inspire their teams. Leaders can develop these essential qualities by cultivating grit, practising optimism, embracing vulnerability, encouraging antifragility, and cultivating mindfulness. Developing composure and resilience is a continuous journey. Still, the benefits for leaders and their teams are worth the effort.

Photo by Dulcey Lima on Unsplash


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