Some writers include resilience within mental toughness while others see mental toughness as resilience + or even resilience ++! Resilience and mental toughness are obviously not the same thing but they are at the same time not completely different.
Personally I work with the model associated with the MTQ48, which incorporates many of the above elements into a 4C model; I’m more than willing to accept that there may be in reality more than 4C’s and even other letters – but the 4C model seems to work and I am a great believer in keeping things “short & simple”.
The 4 C’s are, Challenge, Commitment, Control, and Confidence:
Challenge is about willingness to seek challenge – move outside one’s comfort zone, take risks, face the unknown, etc. Some people see challenges, variety, problems & changes as opportunities – others see these as threats.
Commitment is about achieving the challenges undertaken – changing strategy, taking different approaches adopting different tactics, etc. Some people like working to clear measured goals & targets – others are more easily distracted or bored.
Control is about feeling to be in control of one’s life – having the feeling of impact, keeping anxieties under control, making conscious decisions, etc. Some people feel in control and have influence – others feel that things happen to them & they have little control.
Confidence is about believing in oneself – being assertive, openness to others, believing one’s abilities, etc. Some people have the self-belief to successfully complete tasks – others will be unsettled by setbacks & give in.
The 4 C’s approach provides, at least for me, both a quantifiable description of mental toughness and clear areas to work on to become mentally tougher.
So, are the 4 C’s relevant to leadership?
If there is no challenge there is no need for leadership; leadership is about taking people on a journey to somewhere that is significantly different from today. Leadership is not just about taking on challenges, it also about achieving them, being truly committed to the vision. Leaders are in control of themselves (they are aware of their dark side) and they know where they are going – they are not going somewhere by chance, they have made a conscious decision. Having confidence in others (as well as oneself) is essential in developing the relationships to deal with difficult people.
So, all-in-all mental toughness looks like a good thing and something we should have. According to research by Clough, we all, in fact, have a “certain amount” of mental toughness; some of us have a lot, some have a little and many have an “average” mental toughness – in fact, his research shows that the “spread” of mental toughness follows a normal distribution curve.
How much mental toughness do we need? As for as leadership goes it sounds like the more we have the more likely we are to bounce back and succeed in our leadership challenges.
This leads me to the final question: Can we have too much mental toughness? I’ve yet to read any research that says too much mental toughness is a dangerous thing but I do have an inkling that there are limits; thinking that we can take on the world and win every time, that we are invincible, have all the answers, have no need for others, etc. sounds like a dangerous thing – makes me think of the terminator kind of leader: unstoppable, walks through walls, feels no pain, impervious to others, etc.
I guess I ought to stop here before the article turns into a book – which is not my intention.