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Social and organizational influences on psychological hardiness: How leaders can increase stress resilience

Paul T Bartone

Author Affiliations

Center for Technology & National Security Policy, National Defense University, Ft. McNair, Washington, DC 20319-5062, USA

Security Informatics 2012, 1:21  doi:10.1186/2190-8532-1-21

Published: 8 November 2012


Today’s security forces must operate in environments of increasing complexity, uncertainty and change, a fact that has led to increased stress levels along with the challenge to adapt. For many people, such stressful conditions can lead to a range of health problems and performance decrements. But others remain healthy, showing resilience under stress. What accounts for such resilience? This paper focuses on psychological hardiness, a set of mental qualities that has been found to distinguish resilient from non-resilient people. Those high in psychological hardiness show greater commitment – the abiding sense that life is meaningful and worth living; control – the belief that one chooses and can influence his/her own future; and challenge – a perspective on change in life as something that is interesting and exciting. This paper begins with a brief discussion of the major stress sources in modern military and security operations, and the broad range of factors that can influence resilience in organizations. Next the concept of psychological hardiness is described, including theoretical background, representative research findings, and biological underpinnings. Finally, some strategies are suggested for how psychological hardiness can be built up in organizations, primarily through leader actions and policies. By focusing more attention on increasing psychological hardiness, security organizations can realize enhanced health and performance in the workforce, while also preventing many stress-related problems.

Hardiness; Resilience; Leaders; Social influence; Security operations