Hustle and Bustle - Pixabay

Whether you are a C-suite executive, middle manager or an emerging leader, you will continue to face setbacks. Maybe the company is not performing up to expectations or you are not getting the progress you want from employees on key initiatives. Setbacks can start to take a toll on you. How you do you respond to them? Do they knock you off your game for a while or do you quickly bounce back from this adversity?

In the past, I have addressed how to manage others who struggle with adversity (e.g., the doubtful victim and arrogant victim). In this article, I want to help you handle adversity. To do so, I am drawing upon experience assisting clients as well as my personal experience. If I was working with clients to overcome challenges or addressing some of my own, one thing was always needed—resilience. Resilience determines how well people deal with adversity whether it is recovering from setbacks or navigating a roadblock. There are four key elements that contribute to resilience: a realistic view of the present, bounded optimism for the future, tenacious execution and creative resourcefulness.

A Realistic View of the Present

When you adopt this view, you are honest with yourself but not fatalistic about your circumstances. There is nothing wrong with taking stock of the situation you are in and the difficulty you face. Just keep it in check. It is beneficial to look at things from a practical viewpoint, because the adversity you face in your current situation does not have to be permanent. It will only become permanent if you let it. In other words, your demeanor and actions determine where you end up down the road. Your current situation is simply the starting point.

Bounded Optimism for the Future

After you have accepted your current situation as a starting point, look ahead with measured optimism. A positive outlook is essential to help get you out of any quagmire, but this is not unbridled optimism. Rose-colored-glasses optimism can be a hindrance (e.g., “unicorns and rainbows” thinking) instead of an asset (e.g., “can do,” big-picture thinking). So, think big and bold about what you strive to accomplish. Then reality test it by considering what you need to make it happen.

Tenacious Execution

An optimistic yet practical end state is only valuable if you get there. You will not get there unless you support your actions with a commitment to the long haul. This means two things. First, you may need more than one strategy (e.g., a primary and backup strategies) and multiple actions as you proceed. Second, these strategies and actions are executed with unrelenting persistence.

Creative Resourcefulness

Before you execute strategies and actions, you can probably anticipate some needs and challenges. However, there will be needs and challenges that you will have to figure out as you put your strategies and actions in play. So, get comfortable with the fact you may need to innovate and improvise in real time. Don’t expect to be perfect. Merely be willing to adjust based on what you encounter.

Setbacks and other forms of adversity can debilitate or motivate leaders. Your resilience determines how adversity ultimately impacts you. If you need to increase your resilience, consider how well you use the four elements.


Ryan Lahti is the founder and managing principal of OrgLeader. Stay up to date on Ryan’s STEM organization tweets here: @ryanlahti

(Photo: Hustle and Bustle, Pixabay)