Guest Author Bob Cooper: Are You a Resilient Leader?

Ice and snow on trees

I lost power in my home and office from last Saturday until this past Thursday evening due to an unexpected snow storm.

What did I learn about being resilient over these last few days, and what are the lessons that can benefit all leaders?

My family and I returned to our home last Saturday to find that we did not have heat or electricity.  Our assumption was that the utility company will have the problem resolved within 24 hours. After the 24 hours came and went, we realized that we may have to deal with this problem for several days (that’s the information we were being given by our neighbors).

Each night, my wife, son, and I  would wear several layers of clothes to deal with the cold environment. We listened to the radio and tried to make the best of the situation.  During the day I found myself going to Starbucks so I could have e-mail access and charge my phone. This became my office. I found neighbors to be very helpful, with everyone looking to pitch in and assist each other. This routine continued until the lights came back on Thursday.

What are the lessons learned during this period?

Accept Those Things We Don’t Control

Many people get upset over things that are not within their control.  They wish things were different. The reality is – hope is not a strategy. We must accept the situation as it is, and not how we want it to be.

Support Each Other

When facing a difficult challenge, it is important for individuals to offer support. Sometimes, empathy is all that is needed. Empathy is a way to show the other person or group that you understand the situation they are facing. Sometimes the “customer” just wants to know that you can connect with their situation.  I tried to offer support to my neighbors.

Make Course Corrections

After acceptance of the situation, you explore options.  One option that was not available to us was going to a hotel – they were all booked. With this understanding, you shift your thought process to how to best adapt to the situation.

Stay Positive

As each day passed, our patience was greatly tested. Although I felt the utility company was slow to react, it was important to not lose focus.  When you stay positive, it creates a positive energy for others – a feeling that the problem will be resolved soon.

No Excuses

Even when dealing with a difficult situation, you still need to be accountable for supporting others. I understood that my clients deserved my full attention. I admit that I did miss one important call. It became my responsibility to apologize to my client, and do everything possible to meet their need. This is the essence of “service recovery.” You can’t be perfect, but you must be accountable.  My son realized that when his school opened up, he needed to be ready for his bus.  My wife understood her commitment to her work, and made sure to allow extra time to get ready in the morning.


When the power was restored, we expressed to each other our gratitude.  We often take things for granted.  We assume that the lights will always be on, and dark days just don’t happen.  The reality is many people deal with very difficult conditions every day.  We must give our support to others, and never take for granted what we have.

Please answer the following reflective questions:

1) When things don’t go as expected, how do you react?

2) Do you offer support to members of your team, giving them a sense of hope?

3) Do you make excuses for not delivering on your customer’s expectations? 

4) Are you grateful? Do you appreciate the contributions being made by the members of your team, offering sincere thanks?

In my 30 plus years of experience I have been asked many times what differentiates good leaders from great leaders. One of my observations is that great leaders know how to rally people when the going gets tough. It’s a lot easier to lead when everything is going according to plan. However, sometimes the bottom drops out and everyone is looking at their leader for guidance. Perhaps you lost a big customer. Perhaps your revenue has dropped because of situational factors beyond your control.  These are not excuses to lose, they are opportunities to lead your team to the winners circle. If your products and services are needed, even in a shrinking market, great leaders will win.

Resilient leaders look adversity straight in the eye, and challenge themselves and others to take their game to the next level. They maintain poise and optimism.

Great leaders recognize that others are paying close attention to everything they do and say. When you are inspiring others, you are giving them the belief that they will prevail.  If not, you have become part of the problem.

I am very proud of my family.  They dealt with this adversity and came out stronger for it.  My son said “Dad, that wasn’t so bad.” It really wasn’t, as long as you never lose perspective.

I encourage you to “look in the mirror” and think about how you handle situations that don’t go the way you want.  Building resiliency is a characteristic of great leaders. It “brands” you as someone who can be counted on to get things done regardless of the obstacles. It also makes you a great model for others, thus building a culture of resiliency – a true competitive advantage.

For a listing of our services, please visit us at

Best Wishes,

Bob Cooper
RL Cooper Associates
(845) 639-1741
Innovations in Organizational Management

Image by Sami’ via Flickr

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