Researching Resilience: What Distinguishes Leaders Who Roll with the Punches?

At the 2019 SIOP conference, my MRG colleague Maria Brown led a symposium entitled Preparing for Generation Z. The purpose of the symposium was to discuss how generations may differ, and provide recommendations on managing those differences. It was an engaging session with an overarching message that we don’t hear very often: science doesn’t indicate that generations differ in any hugely significant way, so separating generational differences from life stage differences is critical.

I particularly enjoyed Jennifer Deal’s contribution to this symposium, in which she discussed the differences between generations and emphasized the importance of recognizing life stages. I remember quite clearly Jennifer saying that through all of years of generational research she hadn’t found a tremendous amount of data suggesting overarching differences. She then paused and observed that there was one thing that did concern her about younger generations: resilience. She seemed to speaking anecdotally rather than referencing research she was conducting, but my ear certainly pricked up when I heard this.

Resilience is an interesting psychological construct and it has always fascinated me. Why does one person bounce back so quickly from a failure, and another takes ages (if they ever do at all)? Why do some people recognize and categorize something as a mistake or failure so quickly, when another wouldn’t even consider it a failure? And if Jennifer’s hunch is correct, why is the current generation one that may lack resilience?

For some starting insights, MRG recently conducted research on which behaviors are predictive of individuals being perceived as resilient by their colleagues. Get the full Best Practice Report here.


(Are you part of the MRG network? Log into the MRG Knowledge Base once to access this Best Practice Report and more than twenty others, along with the full MRG research library.)

Also, if there’s anything we at MRG can do to help support you or advise you as you transition to more online coaching, training, and facilitation in the coming weeks, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re all working through this together (even if we’re apart!).

About the author

Drew is MRG's resident I/O psychologist. When not at MRG, he's either with his family (most likely) or in his workshop (less likely). His stack of unread books is commendable.

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4 years ago

Andrew that’s a great BRP! Very relevant in the current crisis. However I also noticed that the variance explained is 25%. It’s not low in terms of predictive validity but probably the lowest one compared to other LEA best practice analysis? How would you interpret the result? I guess resilience is a matter of character or personality not measured by LEA? Would love to see IDI results if the participants also did it.

Andrew Rand
Andrew Rand
4 years ago

Hi Jonathan – astute observation! Both on the fact that it isn’t necessarily low, but low in comparison to many of our other BPRs. I think there are a few ways to interpret this. First, we must remember the outcome measure is “shows resilience” not an actual measure of resilience. Thus, we are relying upon people’s opinions and behavioral observations of what it means to show resilience; people’s definition of this may vary greatly and therefore reduce predictive validity (i.e., it’s not the same for everyone). It’s also quite possible that there are a multitude of ways for people to… Read more »

4 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Rand

Thank you Andrew! Very useful info.