What in the World is Resilience?

I’ve been talking about resilience for a few years now because I’m pretty passionate about it.  In fact, I believe it’s the single most important leadership competency that you can develop in this day and age of unprecedented change and unpredictability. But, what in the world is resilience?

I work with resilience in several contexts, such as lifestyle resilience and community resilience, but what I will focus on here is leadership resilience.

First, some definitions…  Resilience is the capacity to withstand, adapt, rebound and transform as necessary in the face of unexpected or disruptive events.  Anyone who’s been in or around the military will be familiar with this motto: Improvise – Adapt – Overcome.  It’s a great resilience rally cry. Or how about the slogan from the Survivor TV series: Outwit, Outplay, Outlast.

Here’s my leadership resilience tagline:

Adapt. Rebound. Transform.

Each of the above implies an ability to thrive regardless of the conditions or situations that one might experience.  Resilience requires a fluidity and creativity to be able to successfully navigate the unexpected with ease.

I’ve found that resilience is often misunderstood.  It can seem to be a quiet and passive activity until we look at what’s involved in more detail.

Resilience requires an empowerment mindset.  We must believe that we are able to effect change and can create the outcome we want, otherwise resilience will remain out of reach.  That fundamental belief that we are at cause in the world will have us easily adapting our behaviour to achieve desired results.  This adaptive and creative energy opens up options and improves success.

Resilience requires bouncebackability. When we are at ease with uncertainty, and willing to take calculated risks to achieve what we want, then we understand that failure isn’t good or bad, it’s just a fact of life and an opportunity to learn faster.  Bouncing back from setbacks is a key skill for resilience because the faster you bounce back, the faster you’ll get to your goal.

Resilience requires the ability to transform the problem into learning and transform darkness into wholeness.  We must be willing to accept that the way we did it last time may not work next time, so detach from the need to be right.  We must also be willing to accept that we have blind spots in our leadership that need to be resolved so that we can be a better leader.  And we must accept that a new level of consciousness is needed to solve current problems, so we must be willing to let go of those old ways of thinking in order to allow fresh awareness in.

Becoming resilient is a capacity that is available to anyone who chooses to build it.  Do you?

If you’re interested in testing your leadership resilience mindset, why not take the Leadership Mindset Quiz today and find out!

Share your thoughts with me right here on the blog. Don’t forget to leave a link back to your own blog too if you have one via the commentluv feature here on the site.

Until next time, be resilient.



  • Sue – thanks for an excellent explanation of ‘resilience’ on your blog -Leadership Unleashed – and the importance of resilience as a necessary leadership quality. A life quality too, I would add. I loved your word ‘bouncebackability’ because it is so visual, and because the ability to bounce back from setbacks is so critical to moving forward.

    Marcia Dorfman

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