Traits and practices of resilient leaders


Buildings need foundations. Even a good house of cards needs a sturdy base. Leaders are an integral beam in the foundation of your business. If you are a leader in the workplace—and that doesn’t mean just the bosses—your actions and attitudes will often be mirrored by others. In other words, you’d better have a sparkling personality.

At CSN Collision Centres’ recent conference in Nashville, the network had keynote speaker Dr. Robyne Hanley-Dafoe speak on resiliency, and what it takes to be a resilient leader. A multi-award-winning psychology and education instructor, Dr. Hanley-Dafoe aims to provide practical strategies to foster resiliency in ourselves and our teams. Her presentations are rooted in global research and case studies.


Dr. Hanley-Dafoe says there are five core traits of resilience:

  1. BELONGING Resilient people believe they are part of something bigger; what they do truly matters. Community connections with like-minded individuals can also build strong capacities for resiliency.
  2. PERSEVERANCE Outlook has a profound impact on one’s ability to
    process challenges.
  3. ACCEPTANCE Asking yourself “why” questions is limiting—i.e., why did this happen? It can insinuate you are trying to make sense of something unsolvable. Instead of asking “why” when we confront setbacks, try asking action-oriented questions beginning with “how” and “what”—how can we solve this; what can we do to prevent this same issue?
  4. HOPE When a leader is full of hope and belief in a team’s ability to excel, the entire group is empowered to achieve a goal.
  5. HUMOUR Comedy is a vital tool; it’s part of the human condition and plays a significant role in resilience. Strong leaders can see the humour in situations, when appropriate, and not take themselves too seriously.


According to Jerry Patterson and Paul Keller’s 2005 book Resilient School Leaders: Strategies for turning adversity into achievement, resilient leaders;

Assess past and current realities with accuracy

• They expect disruption, look at reality from multiple perspectives and determine the root causes of adversity in their environments.

Stay positive

• They focus on possibilities over obstacles and believe that good things can—and will—happen despite setbacks.

Remain true

• They are clear about what matters most and model behaviours they wish to see from others. Resilient leaders seek feedback to ensure their actions are aligned with their values.

Keep a strong sense of personal efficacy

• They can bounce back from setbacks quickly and celebrate small successes while keeping confidence in their personal efficacy.

Invest personal energy with thought

• They take time to recover and do not overexert themselves to maintain mental focus.

Act with courage

• They remain courageous in the face of strong opposition and acknowledge mistakes to learn from them and remain aligned with values.


In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, author Punjit Renjen outlined five key traits of resilient leaders today:

  1. Design from the heart and the head • Resilient leaders are empathetic and compassionate while simultaneously taking a hard, rational line to protect financial performance.

  2. Put the mission first • They will keep their company balanced in a crisis while finding opportunities to push through.
  3. Aim for speed over elegance • Resilient leaders will take decisive action, with courage, even with imperfect information.
  4. Own the story • They will be transparent about circumstances, including what they might not know while painting a compelling vision of the future.
  5. Embrace the long-term vision • They stay focused on the horizon, anticipate emerging business models and spark innovation.

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