Resilience is the ability to recover from difficulties and setbacks and come back healthy and strong. To build resilience leaders need to attend to all dimensions of their well-being:

  • Physical– through proper sleep, diet and exercise.
  • Emotional- by processing emotions and building supportive relationships.
  • Mental– by challenging assumptions, negative self-talk and activating creativity.
  • Spiritual– through connecting to our fundamental values and purpose.

To assist leaders in building resilience you may provide them with practices, exercises and tools for building their resilience in these domains.

Many leaders are over worked because they fail to set reasonable boundaries for themselves believing their career and reputation will suffer if they do so. One tool which is helpful in challenging this belief is found in the book, The Power of the Positive No by William Ury. The three steps in the Positive No model provide a way to maintain the relationship with someone while saying No to a request they are making of you. The three steps include:

  • Uncovering the value and commitment you have that is leading you to say No and sharing this with the person making the request of you.
  • Stating what you are saying No to as a result of this commitment.
  • Exploring other options for meeting the request other than doing it right now or at all.
To assist leaders in examining work/life balance you might want to hold a workshop or work with them individually on solving work/life balance issues by taking them back to their source: their strengths.

In response to high workloads and fast-paced demands, we tend to overuse some strengths and underuse others. An overused strength can derail a leader by overshadowing other strengths and by becoming a habitual reaction versus a response to the needs of the situation they are facing. An overused strength can overwhelm or destabilize all their great intentions around work/life balance.

Examples of the negative effect of imbalances in strengths abound. Think of the leader dedicated to producing the best quality work at all times who doesn’t also adjust his/her standards according to the importance of the task. The leader who is always available to answer staff’s questions but doesn’t attend to his/her own priorities. The leader who is enthusiastic about trying out new ideas but doesn’t also attend to capacity issues like budget and human resources. The leader who delivers on everything but doesn’t also delegate and share responsibility.

As you can see in all these scenarios an overuse of one strength and underuse of another can easily lead to rising levels of stress and overwork.

Having work/life balance requires leaders to align their strengths with the demands of the moment so they bring what is needed, no more, no less. This alignment comes about when they draw on the strengths that are called for versus preferring some over others.

To assist leaders in balancing their strengths assist them in following the three steps below.

Step One – Identify imbalances

Below are 20 common leadership strengths. They have been grouped into 10 polarity pairs and placed on a scale. Both sides of the polarity are strengths you need to apply to your work at one time or another.

Place an X where you usually find yourself on the scales below. For example, if the scale is: “Being responsible ---------------Letting others do it” and you are often the person in a group who takes on the leadership of a task you might put your X more toward the responsible side of the scale.  







Doing it alone


Sharing the task




Going slow


Going fast

Getting it right


Getting it done

There is a right way


There are many ways

Being empathetic


Being assertive

Focus on the big picture


Focus on the details

Being the best


Being one of the best

Step Two – Reflect on the costs

For the scales where you are leaning much more on one side than the other identify the cost of this imbalance to:

  • You
  • Others
  • Your effectiveness in your organisation.
  • Your work/life balance

Step Three – Develop an action plan

Choose up to three scales where you are out of balance and for which you feel the cost of staying where you are now is too great. For each, identify one action you could take to better balance that element in your leadership.

Action to balance this in my leadership
(What to stop, start, do more/less of?)
Many leaders have indicated that they engage in the following practices with respect to holidays:

  • They take their holidays last, making sure that all other needs are cared for first.
  • Come back to work if called and answer calls from work during holidays.
  • Cancel holiday plans due to work frequently.
  • Bring work on their holidays.

Although this dedication is commendable not taking regular breaks for revitalization is not a long-term strategy for sustaining a leader’s well-being.

Leaders can be supported in building more healthy habits for long term effectiveness through policies that support a commitment to well-being. Such policies include:

  • A declaration of the organization’s commitment to health and well-being.
  • Clear goals (such as to build and maintain a workplace environment that supports healthy lifestyle choices).
  • Objectives (i.e. to encourage annual taking of breaks and holidays).
  • Outline of responsibilities.
Training in tools and techniques for time management could be made available throughout the organization and included as a fundamental competency.

Two books on the topic which include a great deal of practical advice are:

  • Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern
  • Time management from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern
When we talk about the importance of feedback we usually are thinking about negative or constructive feedback. We all assume positive feedback or appreciation is easy and we all do it well. Ironically, however, when asked when was the last time you received appreciation and do you feel appreciated most people answer vaguely and say they don’t feel they are appreciated enough.

Appreciating others is not just about making people feel good. Appreciation is actually a powerful leadership tool. It helps others awaken their full potential and draw on it, see what they have learned and take command of new skills, build resilience, and become more aware of and deliberate in their use of unconscious competencies they may have.

Leaders can strengthen their skills in giving and receiving appreciation by modelling it and learning the basic skills involved:

  • Recognizing the skills and efforts to appreciate.
  • Genuinely expressing your appreciation.
  • Seeing into the deeper truth in each person – their talents, their commitments.
  • Being able to name or give expression to others’ value to you.
  • How to adjust how you give appreciation to the needs/style of the other person.

The other side of appreciation that is important for leaders is being able to receive the appreciation they receive. In this area leaders may need to cultivate the following:

  • The willing to be surprised by what others appreciate you for.
  • Allowing yourself to truly take the appreciation in.
  • Allowing yourself to be impacted by what is said.
  • Challenging any limiting beliefs which may prevent you from being nourished by the appreciation such as: “I am just doing my job”. Or “If they only knew...”

Caribbean Leadership Project
Cave Hill School of Business
University of the West Indies
Cave Hill Campus
P.O. Box 64, Bridgetown, BB11000, Barbados
+1 246 417 3152