What is Leadership Resilience?

“Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

Leadership resilience is the quality that allows leadership to view failures as mere kinks in the road rather than roadblocks. 

Resilient leaders see setbacks as something that can be recovered from with haste and minimal drama. 

And crucially, they’re setbacks are seen as something that can be learnt from. In that way, the setbacks achieve some positive value. 

They become fuel for growth rather than something that depletes the mission.

Leadership resilience resists the natural pull to batten down the hatches and narrow the vision when the big challenges loom. In fact, when the going gets tough, leadership resilience enables us to hold firm to the belief that in turbulent times, our choices matter more than ever, and any opportunities we can spot in harsh conditions act like stepping stones through the mire.

When in the face of uncertainty, leadership resilience gives us the ability to keep moving on  – maybe slowly, but steadily – one opportunity, one thoughtful choice, one stepping stone at a time. 

It doesn’t matter if the stepping stone in front of us is the only one we can see through the fog of an ambiguous situation. We take the step, confident in the belief that further choices and opportunities lie ahead, even if we can’t see them yet. 

With every step taken, leadership resilience demands that we seek feedback, check out the progress and keep challenging our own assumptions. That way, we can believe in our ability to keep re-orienting ourselves and those we lead towards success, even in the fog of ambiguity.

If we were to break this stepping-stones-in-the-fog type analogy of what leadership resilience is into 4 key attributes of resilient leaders, they’d be this:

Communication skills:

The ability to powerfully convey the belief to those we’re leading that progress is possible and opportunities keep emerging in high-challenge situations,is an important one. Communicating that if only we keep a sharp eye on where all our choices lie and bring everything we have to bear on the quality of the choices we make, we will be closer to achieving our goals. 

The ability to keep communicating intentions and direction of travel to others is also key.

Action-orientated: 

As Yoda once said: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” 

Taking bold action, testing ideas, trying new things… These are all essential attributes of leadership resilience. 

Passive, or worse, indecisive leadership only models a sense of helplessness for those we seek to lead through choppy waters. 

Not being action-oriented erodes resilience. 

A useful, upside down way of looking at this is: act the way you want the people you lead to act in a crisis. 

Reflectivity: 

Check yourself before you wreck yourself! 

The readiness to experiment and take action needs to be supported by leaders’ willingness to honestly reflect on and assess the success of the actions that they take.  

Leaders who invite feedback make fewer mistakes and they model a reflective culture that will drive up the performance of all.  

Relationship building: 

There can be no leader without followers and leadership resilience only works if we can bring people with us and help them to unlock their own resilience on the journey. 

Getting to know the people we lead, beyond their role, understanding what matters to them, and taking an interest in how you, as a leader, can support their development helps to build the trust that having ‘followability’ requires.  

By modelling all of these attributes, being a resilient leader gives us the power to confidently (but carefully) keep moving forward – even in poor visibility.

The ability to bring everyone along with us as we go and the knowledge we need to keep pushing onward in the direction of success is resilience in action. If leaders can actively learn from feedback and failure and keep their eyes open to the stepping stones of choice and opportunity, the’re leading with resilience. 

Do you want more resilient staff? Talk to us now about our resilience training.