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Emotional Resilience: Riding bumps, dispelling doubts


In this third chapter of a seven-part series on the characteristics of effective leadership, IQA member and Hanson Construction Materials manager Sarah Bellman discusses her experiences of building leadership credentials in the quarrying industry.

The Institute of Quarrying Australia has invited me to present a monthly story or practical example based on one of the seven core characteristics of effective leadership (see Figure 1).

Rather than write all seven of these scenarios, I have chosen to invite a number of people from a diverse demographic, and a number of industries, which I hope you will find enlightening as well as of real interest for you personally, regardless of your current role and future career aspirations.

This third scenario comes from Sarah Bellman, at Hanson Construction Materials. She has selected Emotional Resilience for her story on becoming an Effective Leader.

In my book The Emerging Leader, I offer the following brief explanation for Emotional Resilience:

Resilient leaders are aware and in control of their emotions and have the ability to adapt to stressful situations or crises. They overcome adversity without lasting issues.

Mike Cameron

Figure 1. The Emerging Leader coaching model.

Sarah’s story

I am sure everyone can remember a time throughout their lives where someone has questioned your decision-making, direction or ability. In these circumstances what defines us is how we allow these comments or experiences to influence us, likewise how we react to challenges or shifts in direction within the work environment.

For me, the seven core characteristics are all very important and must work in unison to be an effective leader. However, the one that resonates with me is Emotional Resilience, as I believe it is the foundation for successful modern leadership.

I have witnessed many circumstances where someone has hit a crossroad in their journey and I have seen how that person’s emotional resilience has influenced their outcome.

Now more than ever before we are living in a disruptive work environment. Disruptive technologies connect the world, generate mass diversity in innovation and greater visibility of ideas, and ultimately fuel competition. Combine this disruptive age with the new challenges businesses face due to COVID-19, thus new business models, and a shift from globalisation to “glocalisation”, the Emerging Leader needs to be highly adaptive. A successful leader cannot be overwhelmed by this work environment, rather, they should embrace it.

I have always worked in non-traditional fields and certainly early within my career I received many questions and comments that tested my resilience. However, I learnt that through perseverance, hard work, knowledge, integrity, vision and passion for your field, the critics would often become your greatest supporters and would certainly enable you to gain a balanced perspective.

I grew up on a small cattle farm in South Australia and from a young age I loved to tinker with anything mechanical, curious to understand how things worked. I remember when I was in Year 11, I had a meeting with my teacher to discuss my selection of subjects for Year 12. I had selected Year 12 mathematics because I wanted to try to get into mechanical engineering at university. The teacher advised both myself and my parents that I should choose a different subject as that would not be necessary for my most likely career, which he suggested would be in a more “traditional” field. I selected mathematics and later topped engineering mathematics at university and graduated with first class honours in mechanical engineering. I have always enjoyed a challenge but especially where doubt has been cast by others.

I have two beautiful children. After my first child, I was questioned countlessly about whether I would be returning to work and whether I would be capable of returning to work.  In some cases, I was made to feel guilty by contemplating a return to work. Like any new mum, this hit the core of my resilience, but I most certainly returned to work and have demonstrated to many that it can be done, while continuing to be a great mum – ie not missing out on the special moments, and setting a beautiful example to a daughter who believes she can do any role when she grows up. While working full-time, I also chaired the industry association (the South Australian division of Cement Concrete Aggregates Australia), sat on a Ministerial Board (the SA Minerals and Energy Advisory Council) and continued to serve as an officer in the Army Reserve. One positive out of COVID-19 is that we now do many things virtually – which means we can fit so much more in! I work for a company that is very supportive of females in the workplace and parental leave but there are many workplaces that have room for improvement and this should be everyone’s challenge to normalise the benchmark.

From my perspective, Emotional Resilience can certainly be strengthened but in order to do this, you must be self-aware. You need to be able to check in to those challenging situations and learn the strategies to give yourself the confidence to face them and maximise the opportunity. It is an underlying natural instinct to take the safest path, the one most commonly travelled.

However, your confidence will build, hence your emotional resilience as you realise through sound strategy, new paths can be constructed safely and are very rewarding. A key to building emotional resilience is not seeing failure as failure but rather what can be learnt from that situation and putting it into practice. One of my favourite quotes is by the late US President Franklin D  Roosevelt: “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” The bumps are what make us compassionate, dynamic and resilient leaders. •

Sarah Bellman is an IQA member and the country operations manager SR at Hanson Construction Materials, based in Kerrie, Victoria. She was previously the South Australia aggregates operations manager for Hanson. She is a former chair of the SA division of Cement Concrete Aggregates Australia and also the former SA co-ordinator for the IQA’s Women in Quarrying network.

Mike Cameron is an IQA member and the principal of Strategically Yours. Visit

Mike is running 4 x 90-minute online Key Account Management modules for the IQA between June and September 2021. For more information and to register, visit 

More reading

Chapter 1: Seven characteristics of effective leadership

Chapter 2: Know Yourself: James Rowe – Self-development and personal growth challenges

Chapter 4: Chasing the bagel: Defining your vision and values

Chapter 5: Understanding and conveying the power of words


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