The past year has been an unprecedented time of uncertainty. The year has seen a boisterous US election season, civil rights protests, rampaging wildfires, stock market shenanigans, and a global pandemic. It has been a long string of stressful months that have taken a toll, leaving people overextended. And in that time, stories continue to come out highlighting women leaders and their stellar performance during these difficult months. A key trait common among these women leaders?  Emotional resilience.

Why Are Women Leaders Outperforming Their Male Counterparts?

EWF has long worked with Lumina Learning Psychometric tools. Through research, Lumina Learning has identified higher empathy as the most significant differentiator between men and women leaders and suggests women may naturally tend to be more compassionate. Empathy and compassion are great leadership qualities and are cornerstone traits connected to emotional intelligence sought after by many organizations. However,  demanding circumstances can emotionally overextend even the most empathetic leader. An additional leadership quality, emotional resilience, makes all the difference.

Emotional Resilience Makes a Difference

As companies deal with the emotional fallout of the current environment, emotional resilience is the in-demand leadership quality. Emotional resilience allows a leader to continue being an effective strategist, decision-maker, and rudder for their organization despite the emotional impact of the situation and decisions. Men and women leaders with high emotional resilience can continue to perform effectively for an extended amount of time in high-stress circumstances. However, even leaders with high emotional resilience are not immune to their position’s mental fatigue and stress. Without proper self-care and breaks, they are susceptible to degradation of effectiveness, burnout, and exhaustion. 

How Can Leaders Build Emotional Resilience

Emotional resilience, like any other skill, can be nurtured and grown with intent and practice. EWF International has a few techniques to help leaders build their emotional resilience to continue being influential leaders under challenging circumstances.

Be Flexible and Adaptable

Uncertainty and change are often the only constants – particularly now. Priorities shift, circumstances change, emotions run high. Embrace change as the only constant and reduce your rigidity. Practice being more flexible and understand that any plan made today may need to be adjusted or even scrapped tomorrow. Reducing your reliance on concrete strategies and making a concerted effort to improve your flexibility and adaptability will build your emotional resilience.

Give Yourself Grace

At EWF International, we know that the data show that women leaders often internalize failure, whereas our male counterparts more often look to external factors. One skill we stress at EWF is interrupting the negative narrative. We frequently jump to the most negative interpretation. Taking a moment to counterbalance the negative interpretation by creating a positive interpretation can create perspective and improve your emotional resilience.
Regardless of internal or external inclination, no one gets it right all the time, and we’re often our harshest critics. When you make a mistake, practice giving yourself a little grace when you make a mistake. By reducing the self-imposed stress when something goes wrong, you can improve your effectiveness and emotional resilience.

Avoid Isolation

When we don’t share our challenges, we can end up feeling we’re the only ones struggling. It’s essential to find people with whom you can share your challenges. They can be teammates, colleagues, peers, or a professionally moderated peer advisory forum like EWF International’s Peer Advisory Forums for Women Executives. Look for a group of qualified individuals that can help you interpret, analyze, and create actionable plans for your leadership challenges. A strong support group allows you to lighten your shoulders’ mental load and improve your emotional resilience.
The Benefits of a Peer Advisory Group for Women

Accept Discomfort

Lingering periods of uncertainty are uncomfortable and can create anxiety and stress. Regardless of circumstances, leaders have the opportunity to embrace being uncomfortable while moving forward. Over the past year, we saw companies accept the situation and develop new, alternative solutions rather than try to make things work inside their comfort zone. A great example is the companies that were able to accept being uncomfortable moving to 100% remote work in the pandemic and finding a way to make it successful rather than force the familiar, dangerous office environment with high human proximity. By accepting being uncomfortable, you can instead put your focus on the issue and not the discomfort you feel. Doing so will improve your emotional resilience.

Pause, Then React

The more stressful a situation becomes, the more difficult it becomes to deal with things in a thought-out and rational way. Instead, our thinking can be taken over by the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for experiencing emotion. This “amygdala hijack” causes us to make swift decisions without appropriately considering the situation. To improve your emotional resilience, force yourself to pause and let the amygdala hijack moment pass before reacting to a problem. Allowing the knee-jerk emotional reaction to come and go without leaning into it will decrease the amount of emotional impact from situations, providing you with improved emotional resilience.

Emotional Resilience and Other High-Demand Leadership Skills

Emotional resilience is just one of many skills, like Virtual Presence, that helps make leaders effective and influential in today’s workplace. For more advice on how to improve your leadership qualities, make sure to follow EWF International on social media and read the EWF International blog. EWF International also offers Peer Advisory Forums for Executive Women. EWF forums bring together accomplished, savvy, women executives in a confidential, supportive, non-compete environment with meetings that are focused, productive, and provide actionable next steps to help solve problems and drive results. 

Learn More About EWF’s Executive Forums