An expert in the field of resilience, Repa was asked by CEO World Magazine to share her insights on how leaders can best navigate uncertainty. Read the full article below, first published in April 2021.

As Volatility Uncertainty Complexity and Ambiguity continues and the pace of change accelerates, uncertainty is the new normal.  In an environment where there are no right answers, every leader must not only learn to adapt to this new situation, they must learn how to thrive and lead thriving teams.

What has made you successful as a leader in the past will not ensure your success in the current environment.  You need a new way of operating.  The constant and continuous information about how to adapt can be confusing. So how do you successfully navigate disruption as leader?

Work life balance is not the answer

Work-life balance is often promoted as the answer to corporate burnout.  Yet many organisations that have good work-life balance practices are still experiencing increased anxiety amongst leaders. 

Work life balance is an impossible ideal to achieve.  It implies that all aspects of your life are perfectly balanced at all times.  This does not allow for urgent projects or family illness.  Research shows that aiming for perfection is also very damaging to your health.

Instead of trying to achieve balance during volatile times, learning to weather the storms of life and business is proven to be more effective.


“Each one of us is like a sailboat. When the waves of life come, do you get rocked, or do you get capsized? The difference is resilience.”  – Rick Hanson

I love this definition of resilience because it recognises that ‘the waves of life’ will come and it’s not the fact that we stand steady when they do, rather we will get rocked and the key is not to capsize.   

Expecting to be rocked means that you plan and prepare your body, mind and energy for those waves of life.  Resilience is a practice, like pretty much every life skill.  This means that you can learn to get better and build your resilience bank account to enable you to draw from it in choppy times.

Resilience trumps work life balance to maintain work performance.  In August 2020, the Wellbeing Lab Workplace Report surveyed Australian workers and identified from their data “that despite recording high levels of thriving in good times, when struggles escalate, workers who lack the resilience to “live well despite their struggles” find their wellbeing and performance quickly diminishes”.

Resilience is the ability to maintain high levels of positivity and a sense that you can influence outcomes, all in the face of adversity.  Resilient leaders do experience negativity from external circumstances which may affect them in the short term.  But they don’t let this negativity persist.  They bounce back quickly.  

I believe that leaders’ resilience is a key skill that must be taught to all current and aspiring leaders.  Unless a leader leads themselves first, they are unable to lead others.

Resilient leaders are more equipped to help their teams

When leaders struggle to manage their own stress levels, this can have a negative impact on their teams.  Studies have shown that poor leadership increases the risk of sickness for employees and the risk of suffering a heart attack. This is why resilience is so crucial when leading a team. Resilient leaders are able to positively influence their teams because they can manage their own stress levels and create a positive work culture, even during times of disruption.

There’s a strong link between how engaged employees feel and their performance and wellbeing.  Engagement is directly linked to culture. Research shows the characteristics of a positive culture are:

  1. genuinely caring for work colleagues as you would for friends
  2. being kind and compassionate when colleagues are suffering
  3. avoiding blame and forgiving mistakes
  4. inspiring each other at work
  5. emphasising meaningfulness of the work
  6. treating each other with respect, trust, integrity and gratitude

A resilient leader is able to curate a culture where these characteristics are prioritised as her team navigates uncertainty in a genuine way that enables the organisation to learn and adapt.

Uncertainty is here to stay.  The evidence is clear, organisations that train their leaders to be more resilient will have higher levels of employee productivity and engagement.  These organisations will also be more able to adapt quickly to a rapidly changing  market.  The sustainability and growth of your business rests on the resiliency of your leaders.

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