When I think about resilience, I remember the definition by Elizabeth Wallace and Jolyn Dahlvig: “The ability to positively adapt, grow, and thrive no matter what rides into your life.” This definition fits especially well with leadership resilience because leaders do not look for crisis, but it has a way of frequently reaching us. There are three major ways that we can grow into more resilient leaders.
Leaders adapt by increasing their self-awareness, accepting their situation, and having a positive outlook. Jobs’ story amidst adversity shows us how to build resilience by adapting. After realizing the magnitude of his crisis, Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I will depart. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” Accepting the intensity and cruelty of his crisis, Jobs still acknowledged God. Leadership can be lonely and uncomfortable, with many situations beyond our control. Like Job, we can learn to accept our situation and change our perspective and behavior toward our challenges. Building resilience by adapting means trusting God with all life’s crises.
Growth is a natural characteristic of any living organism. How do leaders grow amidst adversity? Joseph’s experience in prison gives a clear example: “Before long, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in prison…. The Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed” (Genesis 39:22-23). Accused, demoted, humiliated, and imprisoned, Joseph never gave up on life. Instead, he continued to live right and to grow. Will Rogers noted that, “Even if you are on the right track, you will be run over if you just sit there.” Growing in both good times and crisis is core to resilience as a leader.
Thriving is about not merely surviving, but growing strong and successful. The story of Daniel and his three friends serves as an excellent example of thriving. They were uprooted from their families, land, culture, religions, and even their identities. They experienced discrimination and racism. However, Daniel and his three friends stood firm on their faith and remained obedient to God despite their struggles. For this reason, God blessed them with wisdom, and they were found ten times better than their counterparts in Babylon (Daniel 1:8-21). Leadership resilience is about anchoring oneself in God by faith and obedience amidst adversity and thriving as a servant-leader for God’s honor and glory.