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Resilient leadership: Strategies for thriving in a changing business landscape


Do you practice resilient leadership? Are you aware of how this characteristic can benefit your business?

Yes, everyone needs to be resilient and resourceful to succeed – no matter their path in life. But a growing or maturing business, in particular, needs leaders at the helm who can practice resilient leadership in order to build long-term success for themselves and their employees.

The combination of resourcefulness with resilient leadership packs a powerful punch when the inevitable challenges of running a business present themselves. When leaders have the perseverance to keep going during challenges, they’re better able to transform crises into breakthroughs and thrive.

So, what exactly is resilient leadership – and what does it look like in the business world? Let’s take a deeper dive into what makes resilient leaders.

Resilient leadership can be broken down in two parts: resilience and resourcefulness.

Resilience: Adapting to change and disappointment

The definition of resilience is the capacity to recover from, or quickly adjust to, difficulties. Some call it toughness. It’s one of the key traits of effective leadership.

Resilience allows a leader to clearly see what has (and hasn’t) worked in the past and apply that knowledge to the future. A resilient leader has the ability to evaluate situations to achieve current goals and build on the past to accomplish future goals.

It takes both strength of character and business smarts to see that, just because an old process or product didn’t work before, doesn’t mean it won’t work now under new circumstances.

How do you build resilience?

To build resilience in your teams, a leap of faith is required because experience is closely tied to this characteristic.

This means you have to give people permission to fail.

You’ll have to encourage your staff to look at failure as a learning opportunity that should be embraced. The same holds true for your company’s leadership: They should also be afforded the opportunity to learn and grow from their setbacks.

By allowing people to make mistakes, you not only show trust in their abilities, you give them important opportunities to learn and grow, which is the foundation of resilience.

Resourcefulness: Figuring out a way

The definition of resourcefulness is the ability to overcome or improve situations by coming up with new, clever solutions to a challenge. In a business setting, a resourceful leader or employee is probably most often identified as someone who is able to “think outside the box.”

Resourceful managers are able to see and understand the big picture – and the small details, too. These are your staff members who are great at taking the tools and resources available, even when they may be lacking, and accomplishing the goals set before them.

However, that doesn’t mean resourceful managers and employees are miracle workers. Sometimes they are, but more often than not, resourceful leaders require adequate support from upper management in terms of training, personnel, technology and other investments.

How do you build resourcefulness?

Employees may seem to work magic under even the scarcest of circumstances, but you should still do your best to empower them and set them up for success. Having to constantly perform in “sink or swim” conditions eventually gets old – no matter how resilient or resourceful the employee may be.

To be sure, resourceful leaders tend to accommodate change easily. They understand that the people they work with will change, and the economic and market factors will also change throughout their careers. Still, it’s important that you give them the appropriate level of autonomy and trust to afford them the latitude to tackle challenges as they appear.

Perhaps most of all, your most resourceful employees try to put others at ease about change by explaining what is going to happen and how it will impact the team and the company. These leaders in the ranks recognize that it’s important to help the whole team cope, and better understand and appreciate change.

Learning resilience and resourcefulness

Both resilience and resourcefulness often become second nature to seasoned company leaders, but less experienced managers and employees will probably need to learn to build these qualities.

This doesn’t mean that your younger managers and team leads should be left to get kicked around by the school of hard knocks. It’s much better for both the company and the individuals involved if you provide counsel, direction and support as your younger managers learn how to solve problems creatively and recover from setbacks.

You can also encourage them to foster their own resilience and resourcefulness. Recommend that they read books about extraordinary leadership to help inspire them as they grow into the leaders they’re capable of becoming.

Think of the process of developing resilience like a child’s first day of kindergarten. It’s a big change, and most kids are scared and intimidated. (Their parents are, too, for that matter.) But then, they make friends and get used to their school routine.

They’re fine until middle school and high school, when the anxiety kicks in again about a new school, new people and new routines. With each change to a new school, the child is anxious about what’s to come, but they quickly adapt as they learn how to operate in their new environment.

Similarly, for less experienced managers and employees to acquire these two “R’s of capable leadership,” they’ll need hands-on challenges backed by your guidance.

Provide clear communication about goals and objectives, rather than micromanagement. By giving employees room to learn and grow, you show confidence in their abilities and professionalism, which in turn builds their emotional intelligence and self-awareness as managers – both of which are key to them becoming leaders of people.

Even your veteran leaders will occasionally need to be reminded that resilience and resourcefulness don’t mean they have to have all the answers or take care of everything themselves. A healthy dose of these characteristics means that your managers know when to ask for help, seek answers to questions, and look at problems with fresh eyes.

Staying resilient and resourceful

These two traits, when paired with trust and solid communication, can help your leaders and your company as a whole get through anything. Your company will stand the test of time when your entire workforce is equipped with the ability to ride out the ups and downs inherent to operating a business,

But like anything else, it will require a little regular maintenance over time.

Since resilient leadership uses a great deal of creativity and energy, make sure your company leaders step back regularly. Encourage them to push away from their desk and go for a walk or take the weekend before making a major decision. Resilient and resourceful leaders need to rest and relax in order to recharge their physical and mental batteries.

Leadership can be complicated. Learn more about getting it right when you download the free magazine: The Insperity guide to leadership and management.