Four Ways Great Leaders Bounce Back From Challenges

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

         –American inventor, Thomas Edison

EDISON, despite struggling with failure throughout his work life, never let it get the best of him. He kept experimenting and learning. His resilience gave the world the light bulb as well as these amazing inventions phonograph, the telegraph, and the motion picture.

Do you have Edison’s resilience to overcome your challenges? Or do you let your failures or missteps derail your leadership?

Resilience is our ability to adapt and bounce back when things don’t go as planned. Resilient leaders don’t wallow or dwell on failures; they acknowledge the situation, learn from their mistakes, and then move forward. According to the research of leading psychologist, Susan Kobasa, there are:

Three Elements Essential to Resilience:

1. Challenge
Resilient people view a difficulty as a challenge, not as a paralyzing event. They look at their failures and mistakes as lessons to be learned from, and as opportunities for growth. They don’t view them as a negative reflection on their abilities or self-worth.
2. Commitment
Resilient people are committed to their lives and their goals.. Commitment isn’t just restricted to their work – they commit to their relationships, their friendships, the causes they care about, and their religious or spiritual beliefs.
3. Personal Control
Resilient people spend their time and energy focusing on situations and events that they have control over. Because they put their efforts where they can have the most impact, they feel empowered and confident. Those who spend time worrying about uncontrollable events can often feel lost, helpless, and powerless to take action.

It’s inevitable that at times we’re going to fail, make mistakes, have setbacks and occasionally fall flat on our faces. The only way to avoid this is to live a very sheltered life never trying anything new or taking a risk. Few of us want a life or career like that!

Here’s What Great Leaders Do to Bounce Back

  1. Maintain the right perspective.
    We all experience bad days and we all go through our share of crises. But we have a choice in how we respond; we can choose to react negatively or in a panic, or we can choose to remain calm and logical to find a solution. Avoid blowing events out of proportion. It probably is not as fatal as you think!
  2. Identify what was and what was not in your control.
    Your own role in the setback will vary from situation to situation. Defunding of your pet project because of a company-wide budget cut may be beyond your control; whereas getting a poor performance review is something for which you can take more responsibility. Regardless, it’s important that you make a thorough assessment of the situation to maximize your learning and correct any wrongs.
  3. Re-calibrate to get back on track.
    Determine what you need to do to make sure that you learn from your mistakes and not repeat them. What would you do differently next time? What behaviors or decisions contributed to the setback you’re experiencing?
  4. Nurture your self-confidence.
    Continue to set goals, make plans, get out of your comfort zone and keep moving forward. Resilient people are confident that they’re going to succeed eventually, despite the setbacks or stresses that they might be facing. A setback only sets you back if you allow it to do so.

Smart Moves Tip:

Resilient leaders understand that things change and that carefully-made plans may need to change. To maintain your leadership growth and satisfaction, resilience is essential. How have you been resilient? Share your experience with our readers.

Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle, The Smart Moves Coach, is a national known board certified coach and keynote leadership speaker who guides organizations that are planning, or in the midst of, ambitious growth and change. As a career strategist, she works with professionals, managers and executives who want to build • shape • brand • change • vitalize their careers. She’s been selected by LinkedIn’s ProFinder as one of the best coaches for 2016!Her clients range from private owned businesses to mid-market companies to professional service firms to NGO’s. With 25 years of management, business consulting and international experience, she brings an expertise in executive and team leadership; employee engagement and innovation; personal and organization change; career building and development; emotional and social intelligence. Your Future Starts Now With Marcia!


  1. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
    –American inventor, Thomas Edison

    Didn’t Edison have assistants that did the failing for him?
    I imagine they needed several venting sessions to recover from those failures.

    You too need people around you to support you when you fail and help you recover. You need people to motivate you to try it again and again. I don’t think I ran into anyone who had energy reserves to keep failing time and time and be able to recover on their own. We all need help, that special someone to help us keep chugging along.

  2. Many plans fail because the leadership (person or persons) failed to maintain a flexible attitude. Most plans slip of the rail, it is just part of the change process. Leadership must be willing and able to identify when this is happening and make adjustments. A plan that is held to be rigid is more often than not doomed to fail.

  3. I really like this. It is great for so many reasons. I have worked for people that I felt were on such a higher level than me only to see them slip away and never come back. This is an important for for anyone that just got the wind knocked out of their sails.

    • Thank you Larry. Everyone, no matter how talented you are or what level you’re at, at some point will get the wind knocked out of your sail. We all have!! It’s how you handle it that will make or break your leadership.