The Profile of a Resilient Leader

Leadership | Collaboration

The Profile of a Resilient Leader

We are in times of change, and recently, I had a conversation about what makes a resilient leader.

Like many, my first thoughts focused on personal traits, such as:

  • Optimism: Believing better times are ahead.
  • Courage: Facing fears and stepping up to challenges.
  • Self-discipline: Staying focused and pushing past emotional barriers.

This heroic view of resilience isn’t wrong, but as I thought more deeply, a bigger picture emerged.

I’ve been with Interaction Associates for the past 21 years, and our job is to build resilient leaders. Our mission is to make leaders stronger by giving them the tools to build resilient teams.

Our research and client work have taught us that to withstand and recover quickly from tough times, leaders need a well-developed ‘Collaborative Capability.’ This means keeping people engaged, performing at their best, and contributing with purpose, especially in challenging times. That’s team resilience.

What does this look like?

A team with Collaborative Capability:

  • Shares a common vision.
  • Holds efficient meetings that lead to solid agreements.
  • Makes decisions with clarity and the right involvement.
  • Uses shared processes to take concerted action.
  • Shares responsibility for success.

A resilient team relies on every member. Sometimes, a leader’s role is to be a developmental coach, keeping everyone engaged and performing at a high level.

Years ago, I worked with a global telecommunications company struggling in a competitive market. The CEO had cut costs by reducing staff, leaving people afraid to speak up or be noticed. They feared scrutiny and job loss. During my discovery calls, a problematic equation surfaced.

The company couldn’t win on price—competitors could do similar work more cheaply. Instead, the CEO aimed to out-innovate the competition and be first to market with better solutions. He knew high levels of collaboration were essential for innovation. But a culture of fear isn’t a culture of collaboration. Their recent culture survey showed people described the company as having a ‘culture of fear.’

The immediate solution was to shift the culture toward boldness and bravery by developing a key collaborative leadership skill: Developmental Coaching. This mindset, framework, and skillset became our focus.

The CEO’s insight to identify coaching as the anchor for change was brilliant. When a leader engages in a well-executed coaching conversation, the message is clear: “I value your ideas, care about your development, and am invested in working with you.” These powerful messages help shift people towards confidence, boldness, and readiness to perform their best.

To scale this, Interaction Associates created a multi-day executive-level intensive and delivered it to the Senior Leadership Team and the top 1,000 leaders worldwide within nine months. Over the year, survey data showed fear decreased and optimism increased.

Our relationship with the client grew, allowing us to develop the Collaborative Capability of their senior leaders across many practical skills. But this early story is a favorite because it taught me so many lessons. Chiefly, more powerful than a single resilient leader is a leader who knows how to build resilience in their teams.

Ready to build resilience in your team? Discover how our Facilitative Leadership® program can equip you with the skills to lead with confidence and create a culture of collaboration. Learn more today!

About Ian Lipson

Ian has been in the leadership development field since 1987. In his business development role, Ian enjoys the opportunity to offer clients the benefit of IA's unique value.