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7 keys to becoming a resilient leader

Working full-time as a Coach as well as being a full-time mother of four school-aged children, including one having special needs, has made being resilient a way of life for my family and me. However, I didn’t anticipate full-time homeschooling being added to the list of my responsibilities, and yet that is what happened in mid-March of this year. 

The addition of the role of homeschooler wasn’t the only thing that changed in mid-March. Many of my clients also began to take on much more active roles in the education of their own children and began to work from home, all which was new to them. My family and my clients required more support from me during a time when I also had more going on. 

You might ask why you would want to strive to be a resilient leader? For me, right now, the answer is that if I was not resilient, I would suffer, my family would suffer, and my clients would suffer. That is why I strive to be a resilient leader. 

The reason resiliency is so important is that someone needs to lead when others cannot. Someone needs to be the rock when others turn to sand under the pressures of work and life. If you are a resilient leader, you are able to become that solid foundation so that your family or your company don’t crumble under the unexpected pressure.  

Now look, I am a realist. This article isn’t going to turn you into a resilient superhero overnight. We know it takes time to build resiliency, but this list of seven keys to becoming a resilient leader is a good way to get started. 

Are You a Resilient Leader? 

You might wonder if you are a resilient leader or how resilient you already are. It might help to first know what a resilient leader actually is. A resilient leader is someone that can sustain their energy level under pressure, bounce back from setbacks quickly, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity. They also are expected to overcome these difficulties without engaging in dysfunctional behaviors that might harm them, their team, or their company. The most resilient leaders have a growth mindset and are continuously learning. 

Are you resilient?  Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to see:

  • Are you exhausted when faced with setbacks and find it hard to keep trying?
  • Are you unable to sustain your energy long enough to bounce back after adversity?
  • Are you unable to adapt well to change?
  • Are you unable to maintain a positive attitude when faced with conflict?
  • Are you unable to find solutions to problems when faced with ambiguity?
  • Are you unable to maintain a growth mindset during difficult times? 
  • Are you unable to be coached? 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you could use a tune-up on your resiliency skills. It’s likely that all of us will answer yes to at least one of these questions, so let’s dig into the seven keys to becoming a resilient leader to start building those skills. 

1. Resilient Leaders Communicate Powerfully

How can a leader bring others along during times of turbulence? If they act individually and do not inform others about what they are trying to do, they are not going to be very effective. You cannot be a leader if you have no one to lead; therefore, in my experience in working with clients, having a framework for effective communication to reference is useful, especially when trying to refine this skill. Below is a framework that has both helped me and my clients improve their communication. 

Leaders that follow the Communication Based Leadership philosophy, coined by Cliff W. Gilmore of North of Center, know the four timeless truths that are the cornerstone of effective communication: 

  • Everything is a communication activity
  • Our capacity to communicate is finite
  • Leadership is about relationships
  • Enduring leadership success requires trust

In order for a leader to be resilient they need to remember that everything they say or do will communicate something to someone and they only have so much capacity to communicate. Keeping these principles in mind when they are leading helps to ensure they always effectively communicate their intentions to their team so they can maintain the important relationships that will help them, and the team, succeed. Effective communication will ensure others understand the new strategy or direction they are being asked to take and that the leader maintains the trust required to effectively lead. 

Enduring leadership success requires trust.  Trust is maintained by setting one’s intention in public to help others understand the changes, expectations, and new guidance, advice, and direction required to move forward. 

2. Resilient Leaders Build Positive Relationships

One of the four timeless truths of Communication Based Leadership is that leadership is about relationships. 

Resilient leaders know that in order to achieve success they need to build effective and positive relationships. They build trusted relationships and are able to create strong teams. It is the leader, as well as the team, that is needed to move forward during turbulent times. 

In order to really make change, a leader needs to have others moving in the same direction they are headed. They do this by building positive relationships.  One of the ways they can build those relationships is by developing other leaders. 

3. Resilient Leaders Develop Other Leaders

Building positive relationships isn’t just about getting along with others in an organization. Another important way that resilient leaders build positive relationships is they take the time to develop other leaders. 

The most resilient leaders are not only interested in their own growth but are also concerned with the development of others. Intrinsically resilient leaders know that when someone encounters a failure, that it is nothing more than feedback for moving forward. 

This growth mindset principle, that failure is just feedback, helps when developing others; those they mentor know that learning happens from the mistakes as much as the successes.

The most resilient leaders want feedback not only for themselves, but they are more likely to give feedback and coach others, because they want candid feedback in return. 

Resilient Leaders are most successful when they develop other leaders with the same ability to bounce back in the face of adversity. By developing other leaders, resilient leaders are demonstrating how to be coachable, and that is the next key to becoming a resilient leader.

4. Resilient Leaders Are Coachable

Becoming a more resilient leader will require some behavior change. Behavior change requires a growth mindset. A growth mindset can be cultivated through coaching.  Being coachable means you are ready to do what it takes to change, transform, or improve. 

Torch teaches that behavior change requires a growth mindset: the ability to listen to feedback, put in effort and adopt skillful behaviors. These three tenets – feedback, effort, and skills – are the foundation of the Torch Development Plan. Coaches are able to help you become more resilient, but you must be coachable first.  

Resilient leaders have a growth mindset. Yet, even if they don’t have one yet, they can use coaching to improve upon their mindset. If you are coachable you can learn to be open to feedback and eventually request feedback from others. Resilient leaders don’t just request feedback and then move on, they take action toward improvement based on the feedback they are given. Often, resilient leaders have a strong desire to continuously improve their skills. 

Essentially, resilient leaders have a growth mindset and are coachable; they are paying attention to other people and the experience, wisdom, skills and knowledge they’ve learned and are willing to listen close enough to see what might help them on their own journey. The most resilient leaders continue to ask for feedback throughout their careers. It’s this bold attitude of asking for feedback even when it isn’t offered that leads us to the next key to becoming a resilient leader; resilient leaders are bold risk takers. 

5. Resilient Leaders Are Bold Risk Takers

Resilient leaders are willing to take bold risks and try new things. Being a risk taker isn’t as important when times are stable. However, when times are turbulent or changing fast, it is important for a leader to not be afraid to take risks and make bold moves without having a lot of time to make the decision.

Resilient leaders adapt well to change and keep going in the face of adversity. They have a growth mindset and are continuously learning. That approach works well when the world is rapidly changing and is sometimes the difference between an organization staying afloat or folding. Resilient leaders are not afraid to take risks and make bold changes. This ability to make bold changes often is related to their ability to adapt to and champion change, it just so happens that is the next key to becoming a resilient leader. 

6. Resilient Leader are Champions of Change

Resilient leaders are both bold risk takers and bold change makers. They are not only willing to change, but they are able to provide the leadership necessary to ensure that their team and their organization will also change.  

Change is difficult. It takes courage and requires a vision about where an organization is headed. Resilient leaders embrace change and also take others with them as they move forward through change. Not only do they lead through the change, but often they are the ones that are championing the change within their area of authority in the organization. 

Now, more than ever, as everything around us seems to be changing it is important to have someone with a clear vision in charge. Having a resilient leader with a vision inspires action. A powerful vision can pull together ideas, people and other resources even when it feels like everything is uncertain. Resilient leaders can provide the proverbial lighthouse when things are uncertain that helps to create the energy it takes to make change happen. Resilient leaders with a vision inspire individuals no matter what is going on around them. 

7. Resilient Leaders Are Decisive

While resilient leaders are often championing change, they must also be able to make the decisions required to enact that change. Making decisions is difficult because no one person has all the data or understands all possibilities. But organizations cannot move forward until a decision is made. The most resilient leaders are effective at making decisions and moving forward quickly.

If a resilient leader makes the wrong decision, they are quick to make a different decision and pivot. It often helps the transition to be smoother as they are bold risk takers, champions of change, and have built enduring trust within their organization. 

Resilient leaders are perceived more positively in an organization, but it’s sometimes difficult to understand specifically what a leader can do to be viewed as more resilient. Choosing to improve even one or two of the keys to becoming a resilient leader will help you be able to more effectively support yourself and others during times of adversity as well as maintain important relationships even when times are difficult. Know that you have the skills you need to increase your resilience, and if you need support, we’re here to help. 

Want to know which leadership styles are a good fit for resilient leaders? Download our ebook, 10 Leadership Styles You Should Know, to find out.