Every leader wants to be the one with the proper amount of grit to get the job done. We strive to motivate our teams, and push ourselves to thrive in unfamiliar territory.  

But how can we predict our success in tough situations? Better yet, how can we improve upon our current make up, and thrive when stress hits?  

Salvadore Maddi asked himself these same questions. In 1975, Maddi, a psychology professor at the University of California, Irvine, began researching stress.  

The project, the first of its kind, tracked the lives of 450 managers from Bell Telephone who had lost their jobs. Before the study, the common belief was that stress could kill you. In fact, two-thirds of the managers in his study fell to pieces from the stress. 

After losing their jobs, some divorced, while others had heart attacks and even strokes or suffered bouts of depression and anxiety. The remaining third didn't merely survive the stress of the lay-off; in fact, they thrived.  

What Maddi hadn't predicted is that some people's lives improve when confronted with stress of this kind. In some cases, their health even got better than before. With soaring careers, and strong relationships, these people thrived in hyper stressful situations. Maddi realized his findings were revolutionary. 

So what was it? What were the factors that allowed these super-humans to thrive? How can successful leaders thrive in tough situations? 

1. Commitment.

Maddi said that "no matter how bad things get, if you're committed, you stay involved and give your best effort rather than pull back." I believe that commitment comes from understanding your mission. When you can reach and reverse engineer your goal, there is no setback that can sway your enthusiasm.  

The ability to define your goal, and communicate that goal to your team, is paramount. When your entire team is aware of your mission, their commitment to seeing the mission complete is greater. 

2. Control.

Maddi stated that "if you exert control and tend to perceive yourself as in charge you try to influence the outcome of events rather than lapse into passivity." Sounds simple, but how do you gain control? The best way that I know how to gain control, or at least to feel as if you're in control of your own destiny, is to own your career.  

Become a publisher instead of a consumer, and lead within your industry. If you're on the sideline and consuming content, you're a follower. If you generate content, you're learning, connecting, and in control.

So if you're terminated from your job, you have full control over the next step in your career. For me, that meant purchasing the URL FacebookShouldHireMe.com when I was out of work and wanted to get into social media. Facebook didn't hire me, but I exerted control over my career trajectory instead of taking a job passively. The experience was empowering, and gave me the confidence I needed to get a job in the field of social media. 

3. Challenge. 

If you understand that living life means that you'll experience change, then you'll be better able to view change as a challenge. Making change part of your culture and the fabric of who you are as an organization will help. When change is normal, your employees won't feel threatened by change.

Teams will instead search for innovative solutions. When you and your team expect change, there is no stress surrounding the experience. It's the norm, and your team will feel prepared for it, rather than rattled by it. 

Together, these three simple characteristics will help you and your team weather hardship and thrive in tough situations.

Published on: Feb 22, 2016
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