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Resilience: Good in Small Doses

When looking for characteristics of leaders, you would expect to find strength, level headedness, quick thinking, and adaptability. In short, a leader is often defined by their resilience. The ability to steadfastly guide a team, remain focused on the decided task, and withstand an array of difficulties with perseverance set certain individuals aside, and these are the ones who, whether by their choice or another’s, are usually placed in positions of power. It is their fortitude that earns them such responsibility, but there is such a thing as too much of a good trait.

Sometimes viewed as an argument of nature vs. nurture, the latter is more commonly associated with a person’s aptitude and strength of character, as troublesome and difficult life experiences are primary factors that contribute to a person’s resilience. As wartime breeds great heroes of battle and masters of strategy, obstacles that may overwhelm some will strengthen others, and repeated triumphs over hardships thicken an individual’s skin, helps them grow wiser, and gives them a better basis for success over such obstacles in the future. Those who have survived much may feel untouchable, and that they are invulnerable to failure since they have evaded it for so long. Belief in one’s imperviousness, however, is foolish, and overconfidence, recklessness, and delusion abound when one’s determination overtakes their rational thinking.

Impossibly high standards are often held by individuals of great resilience, especially if they have been able to accomplish increasingly difficult tasks in their own life. Similarly, the mentality of pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps is rampant among those seemingly invincible few for whom such a mantra has not only been plausible, but effective. It is an institutionalized American mindset, and those who have lived in a bubble of success can scarcely conceive of the failures that are part of daily life for most. It is easy for them to forget that they are products of specific circumstances, privilege, opportunities, and instances of pure luck that others simply haven’t had, and so placing such individuals in positions of authority can either inspire newer and greater achievements or cause crashing defeat.

On the whole, resilience is, of course, an admirable, sought after quality. While any personality trait taken to the extreme will have contrastingly larger disadvantages, those who believe themselves incapable of failure are vulnerable to fall from even greater heights.