Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Leader Responsibility - Building Resilience & Mental Hardiness In Subordinates

In work groups such as the military, where individuals are regularly exposed to a range of stressors and hazards, leaders are in a unique position to shape how stressful experiences are processed, interpreted, and understood by members of the group. The leader who by example, discussion, and established policies communicates a positive construction of shared stressful experiences exerts a positive influence on the entire group in the direction of his or her interpretation of experience—toward more resilient and hardy sensemaking. Leaders can increase mental hardiness and resilient responding in several ways:
  • Set a clear example, providing subordinates with a role model of the hardy approach to life, work, and reactions to stressful experiences. Through actions and words, demonstrate a strong sense of commitment, control, and challenge, responding to stressful circumstances with an attitude that says stress can be valuable, and that stressful events always at least provide the opportunity to learn and grow.
  • Facilitate positive group sensemaking of experience, in how tasks and missions are planned, discussed, and executed, and also as to how mistakes, failures, and casualties are spoken about and interpreted. For example, do we accept responsibility for mistakes and seek to learn from them, or do we blame others and avoid responsibility (and learning)? Leaders build resilience by setting high standards, while addressing shortfalls and failures as opportunities to learn and improve. While most of this “sensemaking” influence occurs through normal day-to-day interactions and communications, it can also happen in the context of more formal after-action reviews, or debriefings that focus attention on events as learning opportunities, and create shared positive constructions of events and responses around events.
  • Seek out (and create if necessary) meaningful and challenging group tasks, and then capitalize on group accomplishments by providing recognition, awards, and opportunities to reflect on and magnify positive results (such as photographs, news accounts, and other tangible mementos).
  • Through example and policies, communicate a high level of respect and commitment for unit members. This fosters a strong sense of commitment to the surrounding social world, or Mitwelt.
  • Anticipate high-stress events such as deployments and combat, taking opportunities beforehand to build mental hardiness among subordinates, especially subordinate leaders, by sharing experiences, imparting sensemaking skills, and focusing on organizational cohesion.
From: To Build Resilience - Leader Influence on Mental Hardiness

Defense Horizons - A National Defense University Publication

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