How Emotional Fortitude can help to improve a CEO's resilience

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Andy Raymond.



Regardless of the type of industry or business, decision-making during a time of disruption or tension is a key - yet difficult and stressful - part of being a CEO. A CEO’s decision can make or break an organisation so even experienced and calm leaders are bound to suffer sleepless nights, doubts, and conflicts about their decisions. If they make the wrong one, there is no one else to blame. So, how can one increase their chances of making the right decision, especially when there is a lack of information and time is of the essence? 

It has a lot to do with emotional fortitude, which is one of the key attributes of a strong CEO or leader. It reflects the inner workings of their performance, as they make decisions and deal with the consequences that arise.

What is Emotional Fortitude?

Emotional fortitude is defined as the mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously.

Emotional fortitude comes into play when a critical decision needs to be made, but the conditions are completely uncertain. The CEO must comprehend all the viable options, predict what the outcome could be for each one, and make the best decision for the business. This requires them to gather and analyse data, while also examining how their thoughts and emotions could be influencing their decision. 

There is always the chance of making the wrong decision, especially if thoughts and emotions are interpreted incorrectly. CEOs who trust their gut, delay in the hopes of finding more data, or make a snap decision also run the risk of getting things wrong. To boast emotional fortitude, a director or CEO needs to remain aware of conflicts and complications.

How Does Metacognition Relate to Emotional Fortitude?

A key part of emotional fortitude is metacognition, which refers to being conscious of thoughts, feelings, and emotions that come about when a challenge is faced. When a CEO is making a difficult decision, metacognition means analysing their thoughts and feelings on the matter. They need to stay clear-headed and calm when considering their reactions to the problem at hand. Many people might naturally try to ignore the emotional discomfort decision-making can cause, but emotional fortitude and metacognition mean facing it head-on and using the discomfort to help with the decision-making process. 

However, emotional fortitude is not solely about being aware of the thoughts and feelings a decision can conjure. It also means understanding them and appreciating what is gained from having them. 

How to Build Emotional Fortitude as a CEO

There are ways to develop metacognitive behaviours as a leader, and this in turn builds emotional fortitude. It is important to carefully curate and modulate inner workings while making important decisions. Luckily, an individual can enhance emotional fortitude by taking the following steps: 

1. Think about how you feel, what you think, and what you know. It is important to have a good understanding of your emotions and thoughts, without judging them. 
2. This includes both positive and negative emotions. Without a good understanding of the risk of making the wrong decision, emotional fortitude fails to work in the same way. 
3. Talk about your thoughts, feelings, and opinions. You could do this by keeping a journal of all the thoughts you had while making a decision, to root out inconsistencies or ambiguities. Or you could ‘outsource’ and discuss the decision-making with an advisor or colleague. This helps to keep your feelings clarified and in check. 
4. Once you have reached a decision, find time to debrief. This can help to acknowledge how and why you reached a decision, which is beneficial to future problem-solving situations. Think about the feelings encountered during the decision-making process and evaluate the different strategies used. If anything did not work, avoid this next time. 
5. Make sure to explain and communicate why you came to the decision, highlighting the reasoning and emotions behind the decision. This helps to justify the decision to yourself but also reminds others of the values that are the backbone of your decision-making.

For many CEOs or leaders, the most difficult part of building emotional fortitude is sharing their thoughts and feelings with others. There is a certain pressure that comes with others looking at your thoughts, feelings, and actions in the lead-up to an important decision-making process. For a leader, this level of transparency is uncomfortable and out of their comfort zone. However, developing emotional fortitude is a key part of becoming an effective CEO or Director. 

It might even help if the leader develops their digital presence forging a bond with clients, as customers are more likely to treat the words of the CEO as more trustworthy than those of a faceless marketing organisation running the businesses social mouth. Furthermore, a genuine and transparent representation of the brand is developed, which in time lends to increased credibility.

For more insights on the anatomy of a leader and the skills required to lead your business to greatness and think like a CEO, click here.

Redline Executive mission is to enable high-technology companies to meet their strategic goals, in our search for leaders who will flourish in a time of exceptional change. Contact Andy Raymond – Director on +44 (0)1582 450054 or email ARaymond@RedlineExecutive.com 

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