What Makes a Resilient Leader?

Being a resilient leader is more than a catchphrase.

That may never have been so apparent than during the past year. CEOs and C-Suite leaders who were truly resilient – who had compassion, were adaptable and stayed accessible –excelled and saw their companies reap real measurable results.

“The pandemic was probably at least a once in a decade, if not a once in a century, event, that changed how we worked,” says Peter Uher, PhD, a partner at The River Group. “We saw a lot of ineffective leaders and a lot of mediocre leaders who weren’t able to continue to engage their employees in the business to deliver results under trying and changing conditions.”

The difference between those who succeeded and those who didn’t?

Resilient, high-performer CEOs and C-Suite leaders recognized when, and where, to seek support, how to energize their team and how to pivot when faced with new challenges.

“Resilient leaders are people who are adaptable and who, despite all the unknowns, are able to continue to lead their team, whether it’s a small group or an entire organization,” Uher says. “They’re able to keep their team engaged in a time of great uncertainty.”


Shake Up Your Mindset

A resilient CEO or C-Suite leader also has the capacity to keep themselves, and their team, energized.

Uher tells of a general manager, who went from traveling or being in the office at least five days a week to running a $5 billion business from his home office.

“This was a foods business, so it didn’t stop,” Uher says.

The executive’s response? He refocused on his own well-being and the well-being of others. He got back into cycling, exercising and eating well and started doing yoga. He also blogged.

“He began connecting with people by telling them about his personal life,” Uher says. “He engaged his leadership team by asking them what they were doing for themselves.”


EQ Matters

This executive had a high EQ or Emotional Intelligence – someone who has more robust one-on-one relationships because they’re able to understand and manage emotions, positively communicate and empathize with others in overcoming challenges.

“What it takes right now to be a resilient leader is to genuinely connect with your team at a time when you’re not necessarily able to see someone in person and get a pulse on their body language or vibe,” says Lisa Shall, an associate partner at The River Group. “A resilient leader has to figure out different ways to truly connect with their teams by adding purposeful time on their calendar to touch base and connect with people as people not just as boss to subordinate.”

Rather than micromanaging or focusing on controlling behaviors – both hallmarks of a leader who won’t meet their full potential – a high-EQ executive understands how to empower.

“Resilient leaders stay collected under pressure but continue to come across as authentic so that others want to follow them and trust them,” Shall says. “They’re able to make the tough, but necessary decisions, while being self-aware of their own strengths and limitations, as well as what is needed for the organization.”


The Game-Changer

Like many thriving CEOs and C-Suite leaders, the food industry executive mentioned previously has worked for years with a business coach one-on-one.

“In the 12-plus years I’ve been coaching him, he went from a high potential mid-level executive to a very senior executive,” Uher says. “He’s gotten ahead because of the way he has focused on his improvement and building and engaging his team.”

The executive has delivered results – even during the pandemic.

“We can’t lose sight of the fact that getting results continues to be critical,” Uher says. “We, at The River Group, are always mindful of that.”

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CEOs Navigating in a Time Like No Other