Emerging insights into resilient leadership

As part of our mission to understand what resilience means in practice, we are sharing the emerging insights into resilient leadership, distilled from the first eight weeks of interviews with our twelve participants. At this time of global pandemic, what are leaders learning from crisis?

These emerging insights come out of deep, honest and reflective conversations with the space to roam around a topic, or follow an interesting thought.

When you lead others, they consciously or unconsciously model themselves on you. Leadership is defined not just by what you do but also how you behave. How is the Covid-19 pandemic affecting our leaders’ behaviour and their ability to make the right decisions when faced with the day-to-day challenges of the pandemic?

Each week we are interviewing the same twelve senior decision-makers and professionals for their evolving reflections on what they are encountering. Seven of the participants are senior executives in significant corporations – Arup, the Lloyd’s Register Group, We Are Optima, SAP, Siemens, the World Bank and WSP, and five are the Chief Resilience Officers of a major city in Europe, Africa, India, Brazil and the US, all members of the Global Resilient Cities Network.

The Resilient Leadership project is scheduled to run for 16 weeks (6 April – 24 July). Being at the mid-point, we decided to take a breather, give our interviewees a week off and spend the time delving into the accumulated insights from the first half.

The participants are a combination of senior managers, seasoned entrepreneurs and change agents – often all three rolled into one persona.  What they clearly all share is a substantial sense of responsibility for making life better for those over whom they have influence.

Our emerging insights are grouped under five headings roughly aligned to a crisis timeline, starting with Preparedness and moving through Response to Recovery.

  • Underlying Conditions looks at the overall prior health of an organisation and how this affects its ability to cope well when a crisis arrives.
  • As the Wave Starts to Break explores what happens at the beginning of a crisis, when minutes and hours matter. What is leadership’s role at this point?
  • Leadership and the Personal Perspective looks at how leaders step up and manage their own fears during the crisis, and what they are learning.
  • The Turbulence of the Breaking Wave looks at how the initial high-octane response phase gave way after a few weeks to something much more complex and demanding.
  • Recovering Better looks to the future and how it might be transformed by the crisis.

The full Emerging Insights, collated and curated by the project team, are set out here and include detailed quotes from participants.

While it’s clear there is no silver bullet or single right way of responding to crisis, these emerging insights help us to build a template for leadership in such times.

We thank all our participants for their wholehearted contribution to this project.

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