Hardiness, Resilience and Stress Management

Handling crises, unwanted surprises, and bad news with greater clarity and resolve

recognizing hardiness

A Primer on Increasing Your Hardiness and Resilience

Here’s a helpful distinction: STRESS does not automatically cause STRAIN, the physical, mental, and emotional toll caused by stress. 

True, STRESS may be uncomfortable, but STRAIN is what drastically reduces one’s agility.So while stressful situations are what they are, leaders under STRESS don’t necessarily have to let it turn into STRAIN.

Per the research of Salvatore R. Maddi and Suzanne C. Kobasa (The Hardy Executive: Health Under Stress,, 1977), strain-PROTECTION, or executive hardiness as they called it, directly results from three ESSENTIAL components:

  • Control » that is, actively managing what you CAN control, but not making yourself crazy trying to control what you CANNOT;
  • Challenge » focusing on finding a bridge across the water, if you will, rather than allowing yourself to be taken by the raging tide; and
  • Commitment » truly believing that what you’re working on is of meaning, relevance, and resonance.

“People with hardiness work hard because they enjoy it, rather than because they are compulsively driven,” say the researchers. “They make decisions and implement them because they view life as something constructed, rather than given. And they are enthusiastic about the future because the changes it will bring seem potentially worthwhile. Despite the anxieties and risks they encounter, these people find their lifestyles generally exciting and satisfying, in part because it is strenuous.”

“The key to winning is poise under stress.”

Paul Brown

Hardy executives know HOW to create and sustain a heightened sense of control, challenge, and commitment:

  • They TAKE CONTROL » Hardy executives REJECT that sense of powerlessness that comes from overwhelm, and, instead, focus on how they CAN influence the mayhem around them. They dig into how they might turn a given situation to their advantage; don’t just accept things the way they are; KNOW that, oftentimes, very small changes can make BIG differences. In contrast, the Stressed-and-Strained allow themselves to feel  powerless and act like passive victims, showing little initiative, failing to effectively utilize the resources they already have at their disposal , and routinely getting stuck in their own myopia.
  • They EMBRACE a good CHALLENGE » Hardy executives accept that it’s natural for things to change and that change can often be an exceptional “stimulus” for IMPROVING things. Rather than seeing their work as STRENUOUS and fighting AGAINST it, they see it as IMPORTANT and VIBRANT. In contrast, the Stressed-and-Strained feel THREATENED by the challenges they are being asked to face, tend to think that it’s NATURAL for things to stay stable – which it’s N-O-T, NOT –, and FEAR change because they think it will overly disrupt their comfort and security, which it often does not. Ironically, fighting AGAINST a challenge is often far more disruptive.
  • They REDOUBLE their COMMITMENT » Hardy executives are immensely interested in whatever they’re doing – again, it’s IMPORTANT work. They dig in wholeheartedly, cheerfully, zestfully! In contrast, the Stressed-and-Strained tend to hold back, label their work as BORING, and often appear exhausted and disheveled. They also tend to act far more sluggishly, in both attitude AND behavior – hardly a recipe for success.

hardiness-mindsetIf you, or your direct reports, are feeling more like the Stress-and-Strained … if you, or your direct reports, are feeling decidedly NON-agile with all that’s going on in your world … LeadershipTraction can help you develop greater HARDINESS and RESILIENCY that you COULD, SHOULD, and – N-E-E-D – NEED to have.

Assess Your Hardiness and Resilience

To find out how hardy and resilient you and your direct reports really are, LeadershipTraction offers the Dispositional Resilience Scale (DRS-15), a 15-question self-assessment created, tested, and validated by Hardiness Resilience researcher, author, and Maddi and Kobasa protégé , Paul T. Bartone, Ph.D..

Per Bartone: “The hardy style includes a strong sense of Commitment, Control, and Challenge. Commitment is the tendency to see the world as interesting and meaningful. Control is the belief in one’s own ability to control or influence events. Challenge involves seeing change and new experiences as exciting opportunities to learn and develop.

“The hardy style person is also courageous in dealing with new experiences as well as disappointments, and tends to be highly competent. The high hardy person is not impervious to stress, but is strongly resilient in responding to a range of stressful conditions. Recent studies have shown that persons high in hardiness not only remain healthy, but also perform better under stress.”

“The high hardy person is not impervious to stress, but is strongly resilient in responding to a range of stressful conditions.”

Paul T. Bartone


If you think a brief conversation about your leadership development needs – or those of others in your organization – could be useful, call or connect to coordinate calendars.

I encourage you to take that step.

Barry Zweibel, MCC-Master Certified Coach
Getting Leaders Back on Track!

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