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Resilient Leadership In The Face Of Disruption


by Ali Grovue and Mike Watson, co-authors of “Rise Up: Leadership Habits for Turbulent Times

In these transformational times, leaders are called upon to think and act differently. Resilience — the ability to recover from, or adjust easily to, misfortune or change — is the hallmark of great leadership in the twenty-first century. So, why aren’t more leaders and more organizations resilient?

Through our decades of supporting companies, we have learned and accepted one universal truth: The behavior of leaders is the most important factor in determining an organization’s ability to adapt. Whether in times of crisis or calm, the following goals should always be the guideposts for any leader and organization:

  • Enable individual and collective ability to be inquisitive; understand the impact a changing landscape might have on the organization and its people;
  • Create a deliberate and calm environment in which to create and evaluate options and establish the most appropriate path forward;
  • Establish individual and collective courage to make the difficult decisions;
  • Enable the collective will to persevere; and, most importantly,
  • Enable people, individually and collectively, to be the best versions of themselves in pursuit of a common goal.

While the goals outlined above give you the guideposts for resiliency, they don’t answer the question of how leaders establish these practices. What we have learned at Ignite is that what you do as a leader to prepare for disruption is far more important than what you do in the face of disruption. And this begins at an individual level with you and your ability to embrace these four steps:

  • Accept the need to change,
  • Develop a purpose-driven motivation to change,
  • Learn and apply the habits of resilient leaders,
  • Install habitual practices, and develop a personal setback strategy.


Creating a compelling case for change is rarely a difficult task. Whether we are in a relationship that isn’t working, are out of shape and struggling to climb a flight of stairs, or are dismayed by the reading of the weight scale we’re standing on, the message will be clear. We need to change something. It is no different with leadership. The signals will be clear and will show up in many ways. Dysfunctional teams, subpar business results, and high turnover are just a few examples of indicators that leadership needs to change. But just like with ingrained patterns, the need to change does not always equal the willingness to change. Having the willingness to change is the first step in the challenging process of becoming a resilient leader.


Fitness clubs tend to be very busy in January. The post-Christmas rush has many people demonstrating a willingness to change. They show up at the gym with the best of intentions. Yet, by mid-February, gym attendance is generally back to traditional levels. Many of the people who were willing to change in January quickly run out of steam.

Change is difficult. And, in our experience, if there is not a strong underlying motivation for the change, it will be short-lived.
This holds true in the pursuit of resilient leadership. Willingness to change leadership behavior is not enough. You need a strong underlying motivation to give you the fortitude to stick with it.

Habits of Resilient Leaders

1. Trust — Build relationships based on mutual trust. If your team does not trust you, you cannot succeed.
2. Inquisitiveness — Every perspective has value. Be present, ask questions, and listen deliberately.
3. Humility — Galvanize the collaboration of those around you to achieve great results. Humility is not modesty but the understanding that one person alone cannot do the job.
4. Optimism — Believe that hard work will lead to positive outcomes.
5. Courage — Have the courage to push into zones of discomfort, necessary for individual, team, and organizational growth. It takes courage to follow your convictions. Defining moments will arise when your values conflict with those of others.

6. Discipline — Establish what needs to be done, decree consequences, and take action in a disciplined manner. Great leaders master personal discipline in key aspects of their lives.

Habitual Practices and Setback Strategies

If resilient leadership were easy, we would see much more evidence of it. Countless leaders have ambitiously set out to change the way they lead. Yet few make changes that are enduring. Building new habits is a difficult thing. It requires repetition until new pathways are created in our brain. And while we are building these new pathways, it is common to face setbacks. It takes great tenacity to redefine, on a permanent basis, how we lead — and requires having the discipline to stick with it and the ability to reengage when we face setbacks.


*Excerpted from “Rise Up: Leadership Habits for Turbulent Times” by Ali Grovue & Mike Watson


Ali Grovue is a Senior Consultant at Ignite Management Services, and Mike Watson is the President at Ignite Management Services. Their latest book, “Rise Up: Leadership Habits for Turbulent Times“, unpacks actionable and transformative strategies to help leaders and organizations thrive.