Building Resilience: Strengthening Mental Toughness through Executive Coaching

mental toughness & resilience for women leaders

Resilience and mental toughness are two terms that you have often used interchangeably. However, these two important qualities are actually slightly different things. Mental toughness means that you are able to perform well under stress and pressure, whereas resilience means that you are able to bounce back from any challenges or setbacks that you may face, whilst maintaining a positive attitude and outlook despite this. Both resilience and mental toughness are important qualities for any leader, regardless of gender. However, they can be particularly of value to female leaders who may face increased pressure and scrutiny in their roles. 

As a leader, it is given that you will face setbacks and obstacles along the way. However, it is important that you possess the right mindset to be able to deal with these challenges effectively as a leader – that is, by being resilient and mentally tough. Here are some tips for strengthening your mental toughness and resilience as a female leader: 

 8 Tips for Female Leaders to Develop Mental Toughness & Resilience

  • Be flexible and adaptable: As a leader, you are going to come up against setbacks and obstacles – that is a given. Whilst there is no way to completely prevent or eliminate these obstacles, you can reduce the impacts that they have on you and your business by being flexible and adaptable in how you respond to them. Rather than being stuck in your ways (whether that’s sticking to a particular schedule or working in a particular way), aim to be flexible and adaptable enough that you can pivot any time a roadblock or obstacle comes your way. By doing this, you will be able to quickly overcome any setbacks that crop up – and in some cases, you may even be able to avoid them completely. 
  • Adopt the mindset: When it comes to mental toughness and resilience, a lot of it comes down to the way that you think about or how you perceive the obstacle or roadblock you are facing. If you tell yourself “I can’t do it”, you’re right – you won’t be able to. But if you tell yourself “I can do it” and keep on telling yourself that, you are guaranteed to find a solution and to be able to overcome whatever the setback is that you have experienced. The best advice I can give you is to be positive and adopt an outlook and attitude that will propel you forward, whatever problems you might be facing.
  • See setbacks not as a failure, but as a lesson: This comes back to the previous point on mindset as well. Any time you face a setback or obstacle, instead of seeing this as a failure, see this as a lesson or something to learn from. If something you did didn’t work, ask yourself why and learn from that so you know to do something differently less time. By learning from your mistakes, you can prevent yourself from making the same ones in future, which will only increase your chances of success in the long-term.
  • Welcome opportunities for growth and continuous improvement: Nobody is perfect, and there are always things that we can improve or do better. As a female leader who is mentally tough and resilient, you should always be looking for opportunities to grow and continuously improve in some way. Each time you do something, ask yourself: how can I do that better next time? By having this mindset of continuous growth and improvement, you are preparing yourself to be able to respond effectively, and in a mentally tough and resilient way, any time you face some kind of setback.  
  • Put your own self-care and wellbeing first: Self-care plays an important role in ensuring our positive mental and emotional wellbeing. Although finding time for self-care can often feel like an impossible task, particularly for women leaders who demanding schedules and heavy workloads, it is definitely something that should be prioritised where possible. Self-care can help to bolster the mental health, emotional wellbeing, and resilience of female leaders, which will ensure you are best placed to respond to any challenges or setbacks that come your way. By comparison, if you are feeling stressed, frustrated and burnt out, you will be less prepared to respond to these challenges in a positive and productive way. 
  • Be realistic in your goal setting: Whilst it is a good thing to be ambitious, by setting yourself unrealistic and unachievable goals, you are only setting yourself up to fail. Set goals that are realistic and achievable, and which align with the vision you have for yourself and your business. This will allow you to set yourself a clear sense of direction for where you are heading, which in turn will help you to set realistic goals to keep you on the right track for success. You’ll also be better equipped to “course correct”, in the event that some kind of setback does crop up that takes you off course for a while. 
  • Be emotionally intelligent: When we talk about emotional intelligence, we are basically referring to four things: self-awareness (or how well you can recognise and understand your own emotions), self-management (or how well you can recognise and control your own emotions), social awareness (or how well you can empathise with and recognise the emotions of others), and relationships management (or how well you can communicate and build and maintain positive relationships with others). These first two – self-awareness and self-management – will play a big role in determining how you react to adversity and setbacks. If you are someone who is emotionally intelligent, you are likely to be able to respond more productively and positively to any setbacks than someone who does not have this skill. 
  • Surround yourself with the right people: As a female leader, you should surround yourself with the “right” people. That means people who lift you up, and who can support you at times when you might be feeling overwhelmed or struggling to overcome a certain setback. The value of having a mentor cannot be overstated here. Having a mentor who is also a female leader, and who has walked the path before you, can prove invaluable when times get tough and you need of someone to talk to. Who knows? By hashing things out with your mentor, you might even be able to come up with a solution to whatever problem or issue it is that you’re facing!

Mental toughness and resilience are both important qualities for women in leadership positions, as they prepare them to take any setbacks, obstacles, or challenges in their stride. Rather than allowing these things to get in their way, a mentally tough and resilient leader will be well-placed to adapt and tackle these challenges head-on. This ability is something that is fostered through many women’s leadership programs, which focus on equipping women in leadership with the knowledge, resources, and tools they need to increase their mental toughness and excel as leaders. 


Caroline Kennedy is an award-winning CEO with a track record of leading multinational companies with up to $250 million in revenue. She is also the founder of Empowering Women Leaders: Awaken the Powerful Leader Within – a transformative six-week program designed to help women master the art of leadership. If you’re ready to unleash your hidden potential and become the leader that you were always meant to be, find out more at 

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