Resilience as Strategy

Leadership must prioritise resilience as strategy. Without resilience, organisations, communities and nations risk failure. While we recognise the bottom-up value of individual resilience in health, quality of life and productivity, many have yet to take the top-down resilience journey.

Boards and leadership must be resilient in themselves and also in their thinking and capacity to visualise, craft and maintain strategic resilience. The four disruptive forces of urbanisation, technology, aging, and connected flows of trade, people, data and finance are upending intuition and organisational life as we know it (No Ordinary Disruption by Dobbs, Manyika and Woetzel (McKinsey, 2015).

Lay over that population growth, consumption, pollution, hunger, water, climate change, and conflict (Endgame: Tipping point for Planet Earth by Barnosky and Hadly, 2015), and the case for resilience as strategy is clear. Google, Apple, Rockefeller Foundation (, and Amazon are way ahead.

Organisations at the front edge of creativity must engage with Resilience at a strategic level. The rest will have to do it if they intend to survive. Boards must know that the capabilities of the organisation are ready to respond effectively and successfully to disruption. Leadership teams must know how to design and execute strategic resilience Strategic Resilience is not simply robust and safe. A good business seeks to be the best in the industry, not just survive a storm.

Here is a guide to starting:

  1. Define the qualities that will enable your business to survive and flourish
  2. Relentlessly redesign for agility, speed, rapid protoyping and toughness
  3. Develop a resilient leadership system – knowledge, skills and culture
  4. Build resilient people and make sure required capability remains fresh
  5. Coach for and demand calm, focused and connected behaviours.

Some practical examples:

  1. Defining the qualities

Resilient Cities demonstrate seven qualities that allow them to withstand, respond to, and adapt more readily to shocks and stresses.

  1. Reflective: using past experience to inform future decisions
  2. Resourceful: recognising alternative ways to use resources
  3. Robust: well-conceived, constructed, and managed systems
  4. Redundant: spare capacity purposively created to accommodate disruption
  5. Flexible: willing and able to adopt alternative strategies in response to change
  6. Inclusive: prioritise broad consultation for shared ownership in decision-making
  7. Integrated: bring together a range of distinct systems and institutions

Have you defined what would make your organisation strategically resilient?

  1. Redesign for agility

Publishing, manufacturing, music, retail, computing, religions, and advertising are already disrupted. Who is next? It may be drivers, medicine, law, accounting, education, or engineering? And tomorrow? Possibly supermarkets, universities, schools, hotels, or governments?

Apple, Amazon, Google, Airbnb and Uber have shown us how fast an industry can collapse. Do you have a strategy with multiple options to adapt your core offer to meet the opportunities of the future? To do so we have to get comfortable with risk, experimentation, failure and redundancy.

  1. Resilient leadership

Resilient leadership is the fulcrum. Without it, you are headed into a wilderness. Resilient leaders are calm, energised, connected and focused forward. Fragile leaders are busy, exhausted, anxious and focused backward. Leadership development has to address the personal dimension of resilience and the “consciousness of resilient leadership”.

By training your leaders to harness physical wellbeing, emotional literacy and mental agility, we awaken the true power of leadership. This includes insight (self awareness), discipline, empathy, altruism, and skilled influence. Distress closes the mind. Leaders need to be wide awake, deeply curious, reflective and courageous.

  1. Resilient people

If we want people to be able to stay calm, focused and connected through this turbulence they must be resilient. If we expect them to master change and remain innovative and productive, they must be resilient. Remember that the most resilient will leave first when organisations fail to lead with resilience.

  1. Calm, focused and connected behaviours

At the end of the day organisational success is about culture. High performance, agile organisations embed resilience into culture. Culture is the sum total of organisational behaviours. People must be skilled and supported in demonstrating the constructive behaviours that underpin

We know from the frontline that soldiers, police, fire fighters, and athletes can learn how to be resilient in the face of serious adversity. We have had success in teaching people and teams how to bounce back from adversity. We believe that organisations must begin to plan and deliver resilience as part of leadership and organisational development.

Business today is tough, competitive, fluid and uncertain. With resilience, we become “antifragile”. Second, we learn how to be skilful and effective in situations that would normally disable. Resilience is very good for people. Strategic Resilience is critical for organisational success.