Are You a Resilient Leader? The Softer Side of Resilient Leadership in Hard Times

March 29, 2021

Resilient Leadership in difficult times 

As many of my executive leadership clients faced the uncertainty and adversity of this past year, they were compelled to focus more actively on building resilient leadership. Wanting desperately to be able to function best under pressure, master stressful situations, make swift and strong decisions as circumstances felt out of their control.

This year had this effect on many of us – at work and at home.

Life is full of ups and downs. When challenging experiences inevitably arise, we all want to be ready to rise to the occasion.

We often take a militaristic, “tough” approach and focus on demonstrating resilient leadership. We believe that the longer we tough it out, the tougher we are, and therefore the more successful we will be.

The Softer Side

For many of us being a resilient leader means focusing on the skills and competence to deal with any situation or set back. It means have control over the current realities and being strong and tough enough to cope with whatever trauma or tragedy comes our way.

The hardest things being met with and described by the strongest and toughest words and actions.

But sometimes the hardest things require the softest approaches.

When reflecting on this past year, those who were demonstrating resilient leadership most, were the ones intentional in their actions and engagements each day. Empathetically, genuinely, compassionately walking in the shoes of their employees. Connecting deep in their organizations. Taking quick action and making hard decisions but with care and compassion.

Resilient leadership was most evident from those leaders who were leading with heart.

The Heart of Resilient Leadership

What if you could build your resilience and be ready for the greatest hardships by focusing on the softest things?

Here is what the most successful leaders do to practice the softer side of resilience:

1. Act for Others – Address the crisis at hand while inspiring others to persevere.

One of my clients is a global executive tasked with driving a multi-million-dollar change initiative for her company. Delays were costly, critical talent on the team left and change fatigue had set in. It was time to “sell hope”. She demonstrated her commitment to her employees by getting in the trenches with them, recognizing their contributions and engaging them in what mattered most – the feeling of pride, accomplishment, and success they would feel at the completion of the project.

Recognizing the impact that the uncertainty is having on the people that drive the organization and inspiring them with what’s ahead is a sign of resilient leadership.

2. Model for Others – Responding to protect the business while encouraging the mental and physical recovery for those exhausted.

Being tough and enduring a grueling schedule with long days and sleepless nights doesn’t build resilience. When we lack recovery, it dramatically holds us back from our ability to be resilient. The more imbalanced we become due to overworking, the more value there is in activities that allow us to return to a state of balance. The value of a recovery period rises in proportion to the amount of work required of us. Give yourself the resources and permission to intentionally create internal and external recovery periods. This is the way to role model resilient leadership for yourself and your teams.

3. Champion Others – Recognize the strengths on the team and be their advocate as you weather the storm.

“Focus on what's strong rather than what's wrong.”

In times of crisis, it is easy to focus on what was missed, what needs to be solved, what could have gone better. When we only see what is wrong, then feelings of disappointment and regret seep into everything we do. Instead, provide the compass to weather the storm - shift the focus to trust in self and team, and reinforce confidence in them that they will emerge even stronger tomorrow.

We all seek to grow, and challenging moments are there to do just that. Leaders that bring optimism and confidence to their employees will build a sense of resilience in them and those around them.

4. Connect Others - Provide a caring, supportive environment that gives them safety.

Over the last year I have seen some interesting examples of how my clients maintained connection with their employees – virtual coffee breaks or happy hours, introductions of kids and pets on video calls, starting meetings with ice breaker questions, Uber Eats home deliveries so teams can enjoy lunch together.  These actions acknowledge how radically personal priorities have shifted and how a global health crisis has created a collective change in our lives.

Providing the forums for team members to express their thoughts, worries and fears and supporting their ability to connect with each other, gives them a sense of psychological safety during times of crisis.

As a leader, being empathetic and understanding and sharing your own personal challenges will demonstrate that you are “in it together”. Create the community they need behind them and everyone will build the resilience necessary to get through challenging times together.

Ultimately, the resilient leadership needed today requires INTENTION - leveraging the softer side of resilience to endure the hardest of times. These leaders are vulnerable and empathetic in their engagements and interactions. They invest in human interaction during challenging times and better prepare their teams and organizations to face the hardships of tomorrow.

These are the practices of intentional, heart-centered, resilient leaders of today.

There are countless opportunities daily to practice the softer side of resilience and to lead with heart. If you are interested in learning more about intentional, resilient leadership and these practices to build your resilience for today and tomorrow, schedule a call today.


Tricia is a global business leader, author, and leadership coach. Her unique corporate background gives her a clear understanding of the personal and professional challenges that senior business leaders face today. She brings real-life expertise around talent, culture, and leadership to every coaching engagement. Tricia is committed to helping individuals, teams and organizations accelerate performance.  

Tricia believes this can be done with authenticity and staying true to personal values, beliefs, and leadership styles.

Tricia Manning © 2024 All Rights Reserved.
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