Unlocking your Resilience as a Leader

Susan S Freeman Blog

Resilience is a leadership muscle.  As with any other muscle group, lack of use leads to atrophy. 


A common challenge of business leaders today is the frantic pace of adaptation required.  Companies must invest in technology, systems, processes, and importantly, the development of their key asset:  people.  When any of the above is neglected, the impact on the rest of the system is magnified.  This is especially evident within leaders of teams.

In preparation for a group leadership team call, the CEO and I discussed what was most challenging for them at this time.  It turnout out that he was sensing his people needed to focus on developing the resilience muscle.  They had it already, yet they weren’t exercising it in ways that were adding impact quickly enough for the new situation at hand.

Why does resilience matter to leaders?  According to a Zenger Folkman study of 500 leaders that measured resilience along with nine other leadership competencies, the most resilient leaders were viewed as the most effective leaders (87%) vs. the least resilient leaders (12%).

What is resilience? 

resilienceZenger Folkman examined a global database of more than 1300 responses via self-assessments, looking at preference data, including resilience.  They identified the 7 key enabling behaviors that help individual leaders demonstrate their resilience to others.  They are:

  • Communicate Powerfully—communicate your intentions to others
  • Be Coachable—continue to ask for feedback throughout your career and demonstrate a real effort to improve skills and abilities
  • Build Positive/Trusting Relationships–Bring others along; be open to differences in others
  • Be a Bold Risk Taker-don’t be afraid to make changes
  • Develop Others-be concerned about developing others
  • Champion Change-embrace change and encourage others to change
  • Be Decisive-be effective at making decisions and move forward; if wrong decision is made, be quick to adjust and move in another direction

I asked each of the participants to rate themselves 1-10 on resilience.  Then I asked for each participant to come up with a “resilience edge,” considering the following:

  • What is the one thing, that when you focus on it will improve your resilience?
  • How will your team know you are doing that? What will your colleagues be able to observe?
  • What will the difference be to the team and the organization?

As I said before, resilience is a leadership muscle.  As with any other muscle group, lack of use leads to atrophy.  By focusing on even one of the above, your leadership resilience body will strengthen.

I invite you to post your comments about resilience here.

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