Resilience: A Key Component of Leadership

Resilience: A Key Component of Leadership

By Dr. Kelly Flores

We’ve all been in challenging situations that shake our resolve: Health or financial issues, disappointing news, working with difficult people, unexpected feedback. The list goes on…

The question is not whether we will experience some or all of these things. The question is when will we experience these things? And how will we respond when these things happen?

Folkman (2017) released new research from 500 executives that revealed that resilient leaders respond by being coachable, being decisive, and being bold risk takers. They also respond by communicating powerfully, building positive/trusting relationships, developing others, and championing change.

“The true grit of a leader is not how they perform during the good times but rather how they display emotional strength, courage and professionalism during the most trying times” (Modglin, 2017, para. 3).

A Leader’s Response

How will we respond in the most trying times? Will we give into “paralysis by analysis”? Will we allow ourselves to continuously replay the tapes of negative self-talk? Will we bottle up the emotions until we explode (or implode)? Will we shut down? Will we find comfort in our vices? Will we dwell on the past and on the ‘what ifs’, the ‘back thens’, and ‘could’ve beens’?

Or will we be resilient like the bamboo…

  • that sways with the wind, bending but not breaking.
  • that can be buried in snow for a time and then spring back to life when the season changes.
  • that has such a deep and complex root structure that allows it to be firmly rooted, and yet flexible and adaptable in the face of adversity and hardship.

Practically speaking, as leaders, being resilient like the bamboo means that…

  • when we fall down seven times, we get up eight.
  • when we are misunderstood, we seek first to understand.
  • when life’s demands feel unbearable, we do not forget to nourish our souls, exercise our bodies, and clear our minds.
  • when harsh words come our way, we sort through what is right and true and worthy of consideration, and release the rest.
  • when tragedy strikes, we take one step at a time, attend to the necessary tasks, and move forward a little bit each day.
  • when we are feeling alone, we surround ourselves with family and friends who make us laugh and have our best interests at heart.

Like the bamboo who builds its roots underground for five years before its first shoot breaks through, as leaders, we need to take time to dig deep and engage in reflective practices so we can be rooted, flexible, and adaptable. As leaders, we need to prepare ourselves for the inevitable challenges that could otherwise break us and tempt us to give up.

Let us be like the bamboo…

Dr. Kelly Flores serves as the Dean for two schools, including the School of Applied Leadership at City University of Seattle. As a professor of leadership studies, she enjoys engaging in rich discussions with scholars and leaders in the Ed.D. in Leadership program.