Address Physical, Mental, Emotional and Social Resilience to Improve Performance and Engagement - Ideas for Leaders

Address Physical, Mental, Emotional and Social Resilience to Improve Performance and Engagement

Idea #822

Address Physical, Mental, Emotional and Social Resilience to Improve Performance and Engagement

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Athletes at a gym. Attributed to Euphronios, 6th Century (Courtesy: Wellcome Collection)
Athletes at a gym. Attributed to Euphronios, 6th Century (Courtesy: Wellcome Collection)


The CORE framework from the Center for Creative Leadership outlines a whole-self path for organization to address physical, mental, emotional, and social resilience.


Resilience is the ability to adaptively respond to challenges and avoid the burnout and feelings of being overwhelmed that can damage the well-being, health and performance of leaders and employees. Improving resilience in an organization leads to higher feelings of engagement, less burnout, less stress, less conflict, and overall higher performance.

Based on decades of research into resilience, leadership, and engagement, a team of researchers from the Center for Creative Leadership propose a framework for leadership resilience called the CORE (Comprehensive Resilience) framework.

The framework takes a whole-self approach to the issue, focusing on the physical, mental, emotional, and social aspects of an individual’s resilience.

Physical resilience refers to the body’s ability to fight stress and fatigue with strength and stamina.

Mental resilience refers to the mind’s ability to stay sharp, aware, and creative, avoiding the slow degradation of cognitive abilities.

Emotional resilience refers to the ability to keep emotions in check, and to respond with deliberate consideration of the feelings involved, instead of resorting to automatic, reactionary responses.

Social resilience refers to an individual’s ability to work with others, handling and recovering from high-stress social situations.

The framework also identifies eight everyday practices effective in boosting resilience—each practice supported by empirical studies from academic researchers:

  1. Physical Activity. Vital for physical resilience, physical activity has also been shown to improve mental and emotional resilience. In one study, nearly 90% of senior leaders linked their physical activity to improved problem solving and creativity, better mental health, and lower stress.
  • Sleep. Lack of sleep can impair all four resilience areas. When you are sleep-deprived, your thinking is not as clear (mental), you become more stressed (emotional), you have less energy (physical) and your social contact suffers (e.g., reacting with irritation to other people’s emotions).
  • Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to be intentionally and non-judgmentally ‘in the moment’. Research has linked mindfulness to improved resilience in all four areas. In one study alone, mindfulness was linked to improved wellbeing, increased perceptions of workplace social support, and less job strain.
  • Cognitive Reappraisal. Cognitive reappraisal is an emotion regulation strategy. One simple example might be the brusque manner of a superior, which may be interpreted as an indication the superior is displeased with your performance. With cognitive appraisal, you question your assumptions and seek out new information and perspectives that can change your interpretation. Perhaps the boss is under new, intense pressure; perhaps the boss manages her busy schedule by cutting to the chase. Leaders who can engage in such reappraisals report more job satisfaction and less burnout.
  • Savoring. Savoring is intentionally focusing on a specific event that generates positive emotions. This practice replaces the more common tendency to focus on negative events and the negative emotions they raise. The benefits of savoring are varied, including increased psychological wellbeing, lower stress and even greater social support from colleagues who appreciate a positive attitude.
  • Gratitude. Receiving gratitude can boost your emotional and physical resilience, not only increasing self-esteem and personal motivation but, studies have shown, also boosting your physical health. Leaders with more gratitude for their organization and for their employees have higher levels of job satisfaction.
  • Social Connection. While the emotional resilience provided by social connections is the most apparent, empirical studies have also linked social connection to both improved cognitive performance and better physical health (e.g., one study showed that social connections lead to a stronger immune system).
  • Social Contact. Perhaps the least expected of resilience practices found in the framework is the positive impact of physical touching (holding hands, hugging, patting someone on the back). Social contact elicits positive emotions such as increased feelings of security, leads to better resolutions of interpersonal conflicts, and even reduces cortisol levels and, as with social connection, strengthens the immune system.


While many organizations have begun to implement wellness programs, many have no resilience programs or offer narrow resilience programs focused on one approach.


The breadth of the four resilience areas and eight practices described above demonstrate the diversity of ways to help leaders and employees become more resilient to stress and burnout.


To introduce resilience practices into the organization, leadership development programs might include modules devoted to learning about resilience and practices. Other organizational initiatives, such as mindfulness programs, can also be effective. Finally, leaders can regularly engage in specific resilience practices, such as taking a moment at the beginning of every meeting to express gratitude.


The CORE Framework offers a cohesive guide for companies and individual leaders to begin addressing and improving resilience in the organization, leading to overall higher levels of leader and employee satisfaction, well-being, and performance.



Building Leadership Resilience: The CORE Framework. Katha Fernandez, Cathleen Clerkin, and Marian N. Ruderman. Center for Creative Leadership Report. (2020).



Further Relevant Resources:
Katya Fernandez’s LinkedIn profile


Cathleen Clerkin’s LinkedIn profile


Marian Ruderman’s profile Center for Creative Leadership

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Idea conceived

September 18, 2020

Idea posted

Jul 2022
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