The Six Habits of Resilient Leaders

We are in a time of disruptive, even rapid change right now -- the health crisis has upended our world in more ways than we can count. As leaders, we are being called on more than ever today to demonstrate and grow our own ability to deal with the state of business as it shifts day to day and week to week. How can you effectively navigate your organization through the “rushing rapids” we are experiencing? There are two aspects that are important when unpacking this question: Organizational Resilience and Personal Resilience. Organizational Resilience The work I’ve done with organizational clients over the last two decades incorporate several core questions about moving through with compassion in the face of challenges. Several of these questions use “old stories” as a way of acknowledging what was, and “new stories” as a way of acknowledging what’s emerging.

  • What “old stories” are being told today and who is telling them?

  • What values are important to me, and how can I connect with them day-to-day?

  • What formal or informal rules can I change in regard to the old stories?

  • Who am I “in community with” -- and who cares about changing these old stories too?

  • What new stories can I create with others today?

  • What’s going to be different as a result of these new stories, and what’s going to be the same?

  • Who is going to be affected by what’s different, and how?

  • How do I want to choose to react to what’s different?

These questions build off of William Bridge’s excellent book, “Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes,” with the subtitle, “Strategies for Coping with the Difficult, Painful, and Confusing Times in Your Life” and the William Bridges blog. They also reflect the work of Resilience Circles, which are small groups that come together in support of learning, mutual aid, and social action. We do not have to always answer these questions alone, as the Resilience Circle work points out, and we should not. Reflecting and answering these questions is a good senior management practice to bring into quarterly check-in meetings and leadership retreats. Personal Resilience We can also practice good servant leadership by engaging small groups of individual contributors in answering these questions or ones like them, as part of building personal and organizational resilience. That’s because studies show that when we identify what we can control and what we can influence when something new is emerging, we feel more psychologically secure. See the Circles of Control, Influence, and Concern. What are the core elements of personal resilience? Based on the work of Project Resilience and Six Seconds, here the six habits of person resilience that also convey to us as organizational leaders. Each practice starts from the bottom stage and moves up, with the Self at the center of all resilience habits. As we mature, Project Resilience notes, we are able to progress further up the list of stages for each practice.



  1. Insight -- Asking ourselves powerful questions, that then give way to sensing, then knowing, and leading to understanding ourselves

  2. Independence - Being able to emotionally and physically separate ourselves from challenges in our lives (for example, limiting the number of times we check social media right now), involving moving away, distancing, and separating.

  3. Relationships -- Cultivating fulfilling connections with others in our lives, through contacting, connecting, and forming positive relationships.

  4. Initiative -- Taking action on the things we can control or influence, through exploring, working on initiatives, and generating mastery or resolution at some level.

  5. Creativity and Humor -- Using our imagination as a safe harbor, by playing, shaping, and composing our response to what’s occurring for us. In the case of Humor, playing, shaping, and using laughter to appropriately deal with right now.

  6. Alignment -- Drawing on the Six Seconds’ Noble Goal or purpose-based leadership, as I sometimes call it, this aspect of resiliency incorporates discerning, valuing, and serving in support of the greater good.

What might these practices “look like” in action? Here are a few examples, and a space for you to list what could work for you.


What commitment are you willing to make to yourself as an individual, and as a leader? The growth you open yourself to in the area of resilience will also support you in other roles, as spouse, parent, friend, and colleague. Bonus: Check out the Six Seconds’ Expert Panel: Transforming Stress with Resilience, including these highlights and more:

“Connecting the dots between self-awareness, the climate we create, and purpose leads to resilience Stress is connected to our perception of the situation . While some stress is valuable, distress destroys performance Emotions at work matter – stress impacts the mood, the climate and organizational performance One of the greatest sources of resilience is our connection with people who we value & trust”

Can we help with moving you -- or your team members -- forward on the path to Green leadership success? Reach out to Beth Offenbacker, Ph.D., at beth@waterfordinc.com or via phone or text at 703-623-4811 to discuss if our Executive/Leadership Coaching services or our Talent Management / Talent Development services are right for you. We work with individual Green Professionals and with Green Organizations. All services are customized to your needs.

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