Seven ways to develop resilience as a medical leader

Michael Page, Head of Education Programmes

Medical leaders at all levels in an organisation often experience more than their fair share of stress. Learning how to manage stress in healthy ways, by developing psychological resilience, is key to ‘lasting the course’ as a medical leader.

I’d like to share with you my ‘seven ways to develop resilience as a medical leader’!

  1. Process or trait? Resilience is often better thought of as a process (or a number of processes) that people use to manage their responses to stress, rather than being thought of as a trait that resides in some individuals and not in others.
  2. You can do it: most people can develop, and have developed, a range of tactics for coping with stress. This is the bedrock of developing resilience. 
  3. Recognise that some stress is good: it’s even necessary in order to motivate us to produce our best performances. It is when stress tips us over into distress that negative consequences become more likely. The tipping point is different for different people, which is why you should take steps to manage your stress.
  4. Know yourself: develop self-knowledge, including through the use of psychometric tools like the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), to understand and manage your personal responses to stress more effectively.
  5. Don’t be a unicorn: individuals with special knowledge or skills (unicorns) can create a single point of failure for an organisation or process. This creates stress for the individuals who bear that burden, and also serves to make the process less resilient. Seek to develop resilient systems – the success of organisational processes should not be reliant on the expert knowledge or skills of a single person.
  6. Get support from the outside: look for sources of support outside the day-to-day situations or roles that cause you stress. This might involve seeking out a trained coach or mentor. Alternatively (or additionally), you should aim to make time to meet with valued friends, including those who are outside of the medical context that necessarily occupies so much of your time and attention.
  7. Take control: feelings of being in control are inversely correlated with feelings of stress. Take control, whatever your situation, by learning to concentrate on your circle of influence (the things that you can do something about) rather than your wider circle of concern (the things over which you have no influence). This will often allow you to identify changes that you can make in order to re-introduce a degree of control into your situation. 

The new Royal College of Physicians ‘Leadership development pathway’ workshops cover this topic in more depth, using the theory of MBTI as a foundation to help delegates identify how to use their perception and judgement differently. The workshops are facilitated by educationalists who are qualified MBTI practitioners, to help you to develop your resilience and become a better medical leader.