Resilient Leadership | 5 Tips To Build Resilience

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Article by: Sophie Poulsen
Resilient Leadership | 5 Tips To Build Resilience

In the midst of an unrelenting global pandemic, change is our only constant. In these uncertain times, resilience is key.

We spoke to THNK Faculty members Barbara Piper-Roelofs, Ien van Duijnhoven, and Grant Davidson, to learn more about resilient leadership and how to build resilience as a leader.

What is Resilient Leadership?

Simply put, resilience is the ability to handle and adapt to adversity.

Barbara elaborates, “Resilience is about our recovery rate. It’s a skill we can learn to deal with stressful situations better.”

Resilience is important for leaders to thrive. The ability to persevere and persist with unwavering hope is perhaps the ultimate mark of an impactful leader.

Leaders not only have to manage their energy but also that of the people they lead – so it’s important for leaders to remain grounded and flexible amidst uncertainty. As Ien puts it, “The more you become rigid, the easier you are to break.”

Grant adds that resilient leadership is also about self and social awareness. “Today’s resilient leadership is required to strengthen awareness of system dynamics and possible future states,” he says.

Examples of Resilient Leaders

A prime example of resilient leadership is Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned as a young revolutionary in South Africa. Almost 30 years later, he was released from prison and became an advocate for peace and reconciliation. Mandela’s mastery of empathy, connection, self-efficacy, and authenticity, demonstrates the embodiment of leadership resilience.

According to THNK Faculty, resilient leaders often share the following characteristics:

  • Humility
  • Vulnerability
  • Curiosity
  • Experimental mindset
  • Self-awareness

How to Build Resilience As A Leader

  1. Increase Your Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is essential to becoming an effective leader. Self-aware leaders know and understand their abilities and limitations, and have great levels of emotional intelligence.

To build resilience through self-awareness, Barbara suggests focusing on your “personal leadership. Become aware of who you are and know what is meaningful to you. Take the reins of your life into your own hands, demonstrating self-efficacy.”


  1. Focus on What You Can Influence

Acknowledging that there are things that you can and cannot control is the first step in focusing your energy on making positive steps forward.

Stressing out about things outside of your control will only diminish your leadership resilience. Instead, focus on what you can influence.


  1. Disconnect To Recover

It might seem counterintuitive but building resilience is all about recovery and reflection.

“Look for ways to disconnect from what’s going on to recover and recalibrate from events in life,” Barbara advises. Taking a step back allows you to refocus your energy in order to move forward in a healthy, productive way.


  1. Embrace a Curious Mindset

While it’s important for leaders to be aware of their ultimate goal, Ien says it’s just as important to “increase their curiosity.”

Adopting a “hyper-curious” mindset can open your mind to new perspectives and discoveries. Grant describes this hyper-curiosity as “continuously sensing the system, building an understanding of the context in all its complexity and enabling it to evolve as things unfold, and learning new behaviors and skills.”


  1. Acknowledge What You Don’t Know

One of the highest forms of humility is recognizing what you know and what you don’t know – “understanding that wisdom and guidance can come from all sources in a system,” as Grant puts it.

For Ien, one of the main characteristics of a resilient leader is the ability to “dare to stand in the unknown.” This relates to all of the above points. You need self-awareness, reflection, and curiosity to be able to step back, acknowledge the unknown, and ultimately, build resilience.

Develop Your Leadership Resilience

Resilience is about perseverance, endurance, and adaptability through chaos and uncertainty. In these highly complex times, the key to survival is resilience. To become a resilient leader, try to embrace important traits like humility, vulnerability, curiosity, and self-awareness. Now is not the time for heroes.

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