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Resolve: When resilience isn’t enough


You need both resilience and resolve to get through tough times.

Overwhelmed. Disengaged. Underprepared.

These three words are coming up again and again in my conversations with leaders everywhere. It goes without saying that the past year has been tough.

Organizations have had to contend with a myriad of complex challenges. Many are in a state of constant transformation.

Leaders have had to find a way to pivot and lead in new ways, while dialing up empathy and compassion for their teams.

All of this is taking its toll.

Now, leaders have always needed to demonstrate resilience in the face of tough circumstances. That’s just part of the job. But I have long felt, and written extensively in my book, The Leadership Contract, that resilience is not enough when it comes to leadership. Leadership is hard work, and it’s even harder in the times of change and upheaval that we face.

To succeed, we all must dig deep, be tenacious, and develop a strong sense of inner resolve.


Everyone is feeling overworked right now. Only resilience and resolve will get you through.

So, what’s going on in the leadership trenches? Here’s what I’m hearing:

  • Many leaders right now are in organizations that are going through non-stop transformation. Teams are being shifted around. People have new bosses and new colleagues. Many of us thought that these changes would end this year, as the disruption of the pandemic starts to ease, but they simply haven’t.
  • Many of us are mourning. We have experienced considerable loss. Colleagues have been laid off or had to leave the workforce. Great leaders, especially women, are retiring. Others have moved or changed careers. Even those who have stayed have been forced to pick up new duties or switch seats to deal with all the upheaval. Leaders are on a continuous learning curve, which creates enormous stress.
  • Leaders are experiencing never-ending pressure. The shift to a more virtual way of leading is challenging leaders. Building new relationships and building trust from scratch is very stressful, especially when you feel like you’re under time pressure—and when you have to build these relationships at a distance, over Zoom.
  • Leaders are overworked, overwhelmed, and disengaged. Leaders are struggling to deal with this new normal. They’re tired. Tired of the hours. Tired of the unrealistic work demands. Tired of the people issues on their teams.


Without resilience and resolve, you run the risk of slipping into a downward spiral.

Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, wrote that what sets the greatest leaders apart is a combination of humility and fierce resolve. Great leaders, the kind of leaders who can take an organization from good to great, are personally modest. But they also have the willpower to do what it takes to transform an organization. That’s resolve.

The potential rewards of resolve are enormous. But the risk if you lack resolve is just as large. I talked to a leader the other day who was completely distracted through our entire call. She couldn’t remember what we’d talked about on our last call. She couldn’t focus on her goals. And she shared that her entire executive team is feeling the same way.

Not everyone is feeling this way. But many are. It’s also important to say that I’m not judging anyone who’s feeling this way. This is the reality where so many leaders find themselves right now.

But the risk is, if not addressed, it can impact your physical and mental health, thereby undermining your ability to be at your best as a leader.


Look for ways to build your own resolve.

The way forward is to find a way to strengthen your personal resolve and mental health so you can continue to lead your teams at this critical time. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Ground yourself. When you’re in a tough situation, and you feel it’s getting the best of you, don’t react immediately. Take a deep breath and let yourself acknowledge your emotional reaction first.
  • Reframe the situation. Look for the opportunity that’s hidden within the challenge. Think about ways you can creatively turn the situation around.
  • Learn from it. Think about what you can learn from the situation. How would you approach this kind of challenge differently in the future?
  • Inspire yourself. People with strong resilience and resolve see failures or setbacks as opportunities for growth. Focus on your determination to learn and grow as a result of what you’ve experienced.
  • Build your community. When we face unrelenting pressure, we can cut ourselves off from others. Find a way to build your own community of leaders – your personal tribe that you can lean on for support, guidance, and encouragement when you need it most.

Do you have the resolve to meet this moment?


About Leadership Contract

We are Leadership Contract Inc (LCI), your partner in strategic leadership development. We help you operationalize leadership accountability at all levels of your organization so you can drive strategy, shape culture, and spark change.

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