Definition: Resilient Leadership

  • The capacity to adapt to what is being presented in the moment.
  • To bounce forward and become stronger through adversity. 

Leaders face stress and adversity in large part because, like the goldfish in dirty water, they can’t see through their situation. Consequently, the limits set by a company’s cultural blind spots, those places where the company is stuck in a rut of decision making and truly can’t see the forest for the trees, pile on more stress. The result: Decision-making goes from bad to worse. It can happen to anyone.

Enter the Navy Seal. They are under stress in their day-to-day job; it’s the kind of stress you can’t just walk away from or ignore. So how do they do it?

When I was pulling together presentation in response to the DAVOS call for revolutionary action, I came across an article on How Navy Seals Build Immunity to Stress. Immunity is a strong word.

What are the keys? Turns out they are the same ones behind high performing, fast paced organizations:

  • Value employees as primary agents of change. The badge of a change agent is earned through personal accomplishment while facing or overcoming a big challenge. For companies, it means leaders exist at every level, independent of authority.
  • Belong to a successful network of accomplished successful people. It rubs off. Navy Seals don’t give up at the first sign of trouble. They persevere and accept responsibility for coming up with a solution. For companies, it means a business culture where goals and visions are shared. Employees engage more than their intellect.
  • Create and sustain a supportive work environment; one that encourages risk taking and blends safety (emotional and physical) as integral to team spirit. For companies, it means you’ve evolved trust so that the difficult conversations and failure are part of the learning process. Employees can bring their whole selves to work.

In the inner game of leadership, adversity is the place where integrity and responsibility are the base principles guiding action. Resilient leadership doesn’t seek blame. The focus is on finding solutions and accepting responsibility.

There is no shortage of big challenges businesses face. It might be time to let go of the fears and constraints, the rewards that feed the status quo (and here I am thinking of the executive compensation plans that make employee engagement and innovation limited, if not impossible) in order to reinvent, renew, rethink, and recalibrate company cultures to be primed for today’s times. In other words, take a page or two out of the Navy Seal handbook.

Adapt to what is being presented in the moment.  Develop capacity for resilient leadership. 

“We accept reality as it is presented to us.” – David Eagleman

Business agility (and sustainability) relies on resilient leadership to take what shows up in the moment and realize it’s an opportunity to do things differently or to see things differently. Either can change the direction and potentially the fortunes of a company.

Do you know of any companies that have made the switch from resisting what shows up in the moment to recognizing it as opportunity? If so, please share them so we can celebrate those companies bold enough to enter unfamiliar terrain. Companies that know how to engage their creative talent.

©Dawna Jones, 2015 From Insight to Action Publications


The global and business issues we face today require full employee engagement and a different thinking. Dawna loves to work collaboratively to evolve and transform workplaces to be more ‘fit’, agile and inspiring. By shifting perspective to expose the invisible elements creating routine results, clients gain the strength and clarity needed to remove barriers to growth. Intelligent and intuitive insights strengthen leadership capacity to use complexity fluently and grow beyond the limitations of profit to achieve greater prosperity and value. To activate a quantum leap in leadership, Dawna started the Evolutionary Provocateur podcast in 2008. Author of Decision Making for Dummies, a speaker and a tad nomadic, Dawna is currently working on using Virtual and Augmented Reality to accelerate business culture change and human potential. An original thinker, she brings personal experience with resilience and transformation to her leadership.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: