Every leader faces adversity and setbacks. When faced with a challenge, leaders need flexibility and persistence to continue to work toward their goals. An ability to look at adversity and setbacks as challenges and opportunities for growth is resilience. When thwarted, resilient leaders maintain focus on their overall goals and purposes, finding new ways to accomplish their outcomes.

Resilient leaders accept change gracefully, recognizing the need to adapt plans as necessary. Leaders' commitment to their purpose or task fuels their resilience. The higher the commitment to the task, the greater the possibility that the leader will display resilience when faced with challenges.

Dr. Jerry Patterson, a professor from The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), co-authored a seminal book about resilient leaders entitled Resilient School Leaders: Strategies for Turning Adversity Into Achievement. The concepts in his book embody and summarize the beliefs of MSU's School of Leadership and Professional Development related to resilience.

Patterson writes that resilient leaders:

  • Work to understand what is happening with adversity, determining in what ways they may have contributed to their challenges.
  • Have optimism and positive belief in their ability to accomplish their goals.
  • Are anchored in their personal and organizational values.
  • Stay focused on what is important.
  • Are persistent in tough times.
  • Invest their physical, emotional, and spiritual resources wisely.
  • Act on the courage of their convictions.
  • Take decisive action when stakes are high.
  • Are clear about what matters most.

By learning to lead self with character and respond to setbacks and challenges with resilience, leaders endure to fulfill their goals.