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The Five Characteristics of Resilient Leadership

No one is immune to setbacks and failures, but resilient leaders are better equipped to deal with them. They have five key characteristics that help them dust themselves off and keep moving forward. This article will discuss those five characteristics that scholars have identified as critical for resilient leadership.

What exactly is resilience?

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves “bouncing back” from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.” In other words, resilient leaders are not only able to survive setbacks, but they also grow and thrive in the face of them.

What are the five characteristics of resilient leadership?

Resiliency comes into play when stress needs aren’t being met. So, when a leader is feeling overwhelmed, these five characteristics can help them lead effectively despite the challenges they’re facing:

  1. Self-Awareness

The first characteristic of resilient leadership is self-awareness. Resilient leaders know their strengths and weaknesses and are aware of how their emotions might be affecting their decision-making. They use this self-awareness to stay grounded in the midst of a storm and to manage their reactions to stressors. Being self-aware allows leaders to identify what knocks them off their rails, allowing them to develop plans to avoid or mitigate those triggers in the future.

  1. Self-Regulation

The second characteristic of resilient leadership is self-regulation. Resilient leaders can control their emotions and reactions, even in challenging situations. They don’t let their emotions get the best of them or make impulsive decisions. Instead, they take a step back, assess the situation, and develop a plan of action. When they do make mistakes, leaders must self-correct, something that can be difficult to do when under stress. However, by practicing self-regulation, leaders can avoid making hasty decisions that they may later regret. Think about a time when you’ve made an impulsive decision – chances are, it didn’t turn out well. But if you’d taken a step back and assessed the situation before acting, the outcome may have been different.

  1. Positive Outlook

Self-regulation is closely related to the third characteristic of resilient leadership: having a positive outlook. Resilient leaders see challenges as opportunities for growth and view setbacks as temporary. This positive outlook allows them to maintain hope in difficult times and inspires those around them to do the same. “Optimism is a strategy for making a better future,” says prominent American philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky. “Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.” With a positive outlook, resilient leaders are more likely to take risks and innovate, which are essential for organizational success.

  1. Flexibility

The fourth characteristic of resilient leadership is flexibility. Resilient leaders can adapt their plans and strategies on the fly. They’re not married to their original vision; instead, they’re open to change and willing to pivot when necessary. This flexibility allows them to take advantage of new opportunities and navigate unexpected challenges. In a research paper, Gary Yukl, a professor of management at the University at Albany, the State University of New York, reviewed the literature of the past half-century and found that “research on leadership and management during the past several decades provide strong evidence that flexible, adaptive leadership is essential for most managers. The evidence comes from several different types of research and many different theories.”

  1. Connection to Others

The fifth and final characteristic of resilient leadership is a connection to others. Resilient leaders have a strong support system of family, friends, and colleagues. They know they can’t do it alone, and they’re not afraid to ask for help when needed. This supportive network gives them the strength to keep going when times are tough. In addition, resilient leaders are also good at building relationships and connecting with others. They understand the importance of emotional intelligence and use their interpersonal skills to build trust and rapport.

While there are many characteristics that make up a resilient leader, these five are essential. With self-awareness, self-regulation, a positive outlook, flexibility, and a connection to others, resilient leaders are better equipped to weather the storms of life and lead their organizations to success.

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