Are You a Resilient Leader?

If the “great resignation” taught us anything, it’s that people are tired. And the storms won’t abate, given rising costs and a looming recession. The antidote, leadership gurus say, is a new leadership competency: resilience.

By M. Carolyn Miller, MA

Resilience Is the New Leadership Competency

“The old definition of resilience was about grit and determination. [Today,] it involves self-awareness and responsiveness to those around you.”

—Steven Stein, clinical psychologist

If the “great resignation” taught us anything, it’s that people are tired. And the storms won’t abate, given rising costs and a looming recession. The antidote, leadership gurus say, is a new leadership competency, resilience or “Type R,” as authors Ama Marston and Stephanie Marston dubbed it in their book, Type R: Transformative Resilience for Thriving in a Turbulent World.

So, as a practice owner or manager, how do you build personal resilience and show your team how to do the same? Simultaneously, how do you create, or continue to build, a practice where staff want to come to work regardless of the darkening skies?

It begins by understanding what resilience is. The old definition of resilience was about grit and determination, clinical psychologist Steven Stein told the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) in “Why Resilient Executives are Better Leaders.” Not anymore. Now, it involves self-awareness and responsiveness to those around you.

Resilience has three levels of competence, each linked to the other, noted Deloitte Consulting, LLC, a global financial consulting firm, in “Turning Resilience into a Core Competency.” The first level is personal; that is, observing and commandeering your own thoughts.

The second level concerns your ability to connect and empathize with others. Has a staff member suddenly taken on additional caregiving responsibilities? Ask how you or the practice can support them. Did your partner recently have a health crisis? Express your concern.

The third level is about how you respond to outside forces. This can be the competition that has moved in down the street and demands an innovative response. It can also be your response to a virus that is spreading across the globe and demands new practice operational procedures.

Personal Resilience

Personal resilience is an inside job. It involves your ability to be aware of your thoughts, emotions, and reaction patterns and have agency over them, noted Deloitte. For instance, does a new practice challenge immediately cause you to feel victimized? And are you aware enough to see that and then redirect your thoughts more positively?

Another skill of personal resilience is your ability to be realistically optimistic. In other words, do you believe wholeheartedly that you can overcome whatever is ahead? And can you see the challenge, and your response to it, as your values in action? For instance, during the pandemic, did your practice rally to the challenge and come up with innovative ways to serve your clients and their pets because that is part of your mission?

Interpersonal Resilience

Connection and empathy matter in the workplace, noted Deloitte. And they are built via a “collection of moments” that can make or break communication. One of the biggest relationship builders is how you respond to an employee’s good news. If you applaud the person and even help them relive the experience by asking details, you build trust and empathy at a deep level.

Painting of a resilient figure helping another

Even “negative” interactions, such as how to address a staff member’s behavior, can build communication. It’s all a matter of attitude, noted Deloitte, moving from one of “reprimand” to one of “curiosity.” Listen rather than speak.

Begin by affirming your mutual goal. For instance, “Can we agree that the goal is for you and Sallie to be able to work together amicably?” Then, test your assumptions by asking questions. (And take responsibility for any way you or practice systems may have contributed to the issue.) Finally, conclude the conversation by agreeing on a next step.

Environmental Resilience

Outside forces can be market-driven, such as rising supplier prices. They can also be larger social issues that prompt you to take a stand. And while you can’t control these forces, you can control how you respond to them and the meaning you attach to them. In other words, can you turn the obstacle into an opportunity for your practice, and its staff, to grow?

Environmental resilience also involves your impact and service to others. For those in the veterinary field, this is often second nature. And the pandemic revealed the level of dedication practices had toward serving their clients and patients in overcoming that particular environmental challenge.

These three layers are intricately woven together. And it is your ability to learn and model these competencies that will dictate your ability to thrive regardless of what’s ahead. In doing so, you will teach by example how your team can do the same.

M. Carolyn Miller, MA, has taught, written, and designed training programs in leadership for 30 years. Find out more at

Photo credits: Benjavisa/iStock via Getty Images Plus



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