Resilient Leadership

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Practices for Building a Strong Personal Foundation by Dr. Tina Woodard

Following a full day of executive coaching during the pandemic, I reflected upon the range of sentiments expressed by clients—from, “I’ve reached a point of burnout,” to, “I need a vacation!” Some of their exasperation stemmed from general responsibilities associated with their respective leadership positions; however, most of it was stress exacerbated by the global pandemic. Women in particular experienced an extreme pandemic-induced jolt when we were suddenly faced with balancing working, parenting, teaching, home-care and self-care, resulting in widespread exhaustion, anxiety and depression. Many women shifted to remote working or stopped working altogether. In fact, roughly 865,000 women dropped out of the labor force in September 2020.[1] Ostensibly, it requires great strength to keep it all together when everything seems to be caving in around us.

It has been stated that we can find purpose in our pain. Indeed, there are preconditions that position us to build and sustain our resilience to effectively navigate life’s storms. I identify these preconditions as Ten Practices for Building a Strong Personal Foundation. These practices, two of which I share in this article, emerged from research I conducted through 20+ years of developing and coaching hundreds of leaders in various sectors, and they have been found to contribute to leaders’ sustained effectiveness.

Live Authentically

One of the most consequential attributes of a strong leader is personal integrity. Without integrity, there is no personal credibility; likewise, without personal credibility, there is no leadership. Living authentically is living according to your core values. It also portends immense clarity about who you are and what you believe is important. Core values guide your behavior so that you can effectively align your daily actions accordingly. We desperately need credible leaders who exhibit consistency between what they say and what they do.

Cultivate Self-Consciousness

The most pervasive de-railer I have observed when coaching leaders is a deficit of personal awareness. We all have blind spots— aspects of our behavior that we don’t know but that others see. Some leaders are too defensive to acknowledge their limitations and seem surprised when they receive negative feedback, however constructive. Early in my coaching career, a male senior leader received negative feedback typed in all caps on an anonymous formal assessment. He pondered it carefully, then looked at me and stated, “They don’t mean it.” I replied, “If the feedback is typed in all caps, then I think the message is quite intentional.” Denial is a major block to personal awareness.

It is essential for leaders to cultivate self-consciousness by seeking feedback from credible people who observe their leadership behaviors frequently. Self-consciousness enables you to leverage your strengths for personal and professional benefit. Understanding your developmental needs enables you to focus on improvement, and to surround yourself with people who excel in those areas. A critical goal for leaders is to eliminate their blind spots.

In upcoming issues of Thrive Today! Magazine, I will discuss the remaining eight Practices of Building a Strong Personal Foundation.


[1] https://www.cnbc.com/2020/10/02/865000-women-dropped-out-of-the-labor-force-in-september-2020.html

This article was extracted from the premier issue of Thrive Magazine (Spring 2021). Learn how to get your copy of Thrive Magazine by visiting us here.