5 Characteristics of a Resilient Leader: Bob and Weave Your Way to Resiliency

working man climbs stairs, ready to conquer challenges—action-strategies-by-design

If you ever find yourself in a boxing ring with punches coming at you, don’t panic…bob and weave. This practical defense technique simultaneously protects you from a hit and shifts you into a new fighting position.

Just like in the boxing ring, leaders need to bob and weave to become resilient.

What is a resilient leader, and why is it important?

A resilient leader adapts to change and capitalizes on opportunities. They recover from setbacks quickly, find creative solutions, and inspire others to have a vision for their work and organization. And maybe most essential, they have seamless, fluid responses that address potential challenges while positioning the team for the next steps.

Without resilient leaders to guide their team into a new stance, organizations can often find themselves stuck when facing adversity. When an organization is lacking this type of leadership, there are consequences such as:

  • Missed opportunities for growth and efficiency
  • Unengaged and unmotivated employees
  • Limited productivity, creativity, and innovation

Take the pandemic, for example; COVID brought many challenges to the traditional workplace environment, but organizations with resilient leaders adapted and provided a vision of what could be and the platform to achieve it. They didn’t just see challenges; they saw opportunity—and this type of leadership is critical.

Characteristics of a Resilient Leader

When facing a problem, leaders can easily allow a situation to control them, instead of taking control of a situation. Effective leadership requires leaders to act in an urgent, honest, and iterative fashion, recognizing that mistakes are inevitable and correcting course — not assigning blame—is imperative. Let’s take a deeper look into what makes resilient leaders tick.

A resilient leader is:


A leader needs to be able to bounce back quickly and protect their team. A car bumper is in place to provide bounce back in the event of a collision and protect the passengers. A resilient leader is like the car bumper of an organization. They can handle bad news or disgruntled opinions and can listen and respond constructively. Flexibility means being open to change, adapting to situations, and having the ability to see different perspectives and possibilities.


Leaders need to be agile pivoting and changing direction quickly as the need arises. When leaders are open to suggestions and willing to change how they do things, they will be agile in challenging circumstances. Especially today, we live and work in uncertain environments, but resilient leaders can change focus to meet needs and continue to foster high-performing teams.

Realistic and Optimistic

A resilient leader is simultaneously realistic and optimistic. That means they can recognize the problem and look beyond the current situation to paint a positive future on the other side of a challenging situation.

As my friend and colleague says, “acknowledge the suckage.” It is valuable to acknowledge a problem or bad situation—and the feelings associated with the circumstances—but the key is not getting sucked into the negativity and pessimism. The focus should quickly switch to solutions.

Emotionally Intelligent

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the ability to manage and understand your own emotions and the emotions of those around you. High EQ levels allow you to appropriately label feelings and identify how they can affect a situation and other people. In the workplace being able to express and control emotions is important, but a resilient leader also needs to be able to interpret and respond to others’ emotions and needs.

Locus of Control

Locus of control is a psychological concept referring to the belief one has some control over outcomes, situations, or experiences. Locus of control in a resilient leader suggests the focus is on what can be controlled rather than what cannot be controlled. Breaking situations down into controllable and uncontrollable categories makes challenges seem smaller and more manageable.

Practical Steps to Develop Resilient Leadership Skills

You might think learning to become a resilient leader just happens over time with practice, and that is true. But there are practical exercises, trainings, and assessments that Action-Strategies-By-Design can offer to guide and support you on your journey.

Problem-Solving Team Exercise

One exercise I like to have leaders and teams do together is as follows:

a teambuilding exercise to brainstorms solutions with sticky notes—action-strategies-by-design

  1. Brainstorm concerns, problems, or issues and write each one on a note card.
  2. Sort those cards into two categories—things you can control and things you cannot.
  3. Take the actions that cannot be controlled and acknowledge them, then remove them from site to focus on the issues where you can have an impact.
  4. Take these issues and brainstorm every possible solution that might solve the problem. The goal here is to be open and bold with ideas.
  5. Figure out which possibilities make the most sense to solve the issue and put an action plan in place.

This exercise allows leaders to work on their problem-solving skills and innovation while showing their team they can be realistic and optimistic. It helps everyone develop locus of control.

Improve and Develop EQ (Emotional Quotient)

The best way to improve your own emotional intelligence is to develop awareness of situations where your natural response may be less effective and intentionally practice adapting your approach to achieve more effective outcomes. Many EQ assessments measure EQ without providing information on how to increase emotional intelligence. Everything DiSC® Agile EQ is a tool based on DiSC® style that teaches participants to read the emotional and interpersonal needs of a situation and respond accordingly. It also provides insight into the concept of EQ and how to approach workplace interactions with agility. The training helps leaders develop their emotional intelligence by providing actionable steps to strengthen responses to situations outside their comfort zone.

Gain Flexibility and Trust Through Team Feedback

Feedback is critical for development and improvement. The Flexibility and Trust Survey measures two vital aspects of a high-performing leader: Interpersonal flexibility and interpersonal trust.

Flexibility assesses the level to which others see a leader as approachable, easy to work with, giving encouragement, building mutual understanding, and willingness to adapt to work effectively with others. Trust measures the leader’s trust-building ability perceived by others. When combined, flexibility and trust increase productivity, retention, engagement, and resiliency. Team members take the survey to give honest, direct feedback on a leader’s effectiveness in these two areas.

Attend a Free Virtual Showcase

Action-Strategies-By-Design is hosting a virtual showcase, Transforming Culture with Agile Leadership, on May 20, 2021, from 3:30-4:30PM CST. The event looks at flexibility as a cornerstone of emotional intelligence, and how to develop the critical skills to be resilient and build trust.

Join speaker Keith Ayers, president of Intégro Leadership Institute, as he explores the impact of flexibility on team performance and provides steps to improve leadership skills. Register now to attend this informative webinar.

About Us

Action-Strategies-By-Design provides a wide range of services and events to help build high-performing teams and effective leaders. Contact us for more information on Everything DiSC® Agile EQ, Flexibility and Trust Survey, and other training resources to build resilient leaders.

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