Leadership Lessons From the FBI: How Resilient Are You?

We all know that resilience is a key indicator of success. Take it from a former FBI agent—when your life is on the line, adapting to setbacks, possible failures and imminent danger, you have to learn to be resilient.

According to former FBI agent LaRae Quy, building resilience involves four things:

  • learning from others
  • managing stress
  • finding a support group, and
  • staying positive.

“More than talent, more than education, more than experience, the ability to bounce back from setbacks determines who will succeed and who will fail,” she writes.

Same thing goes for the life of our careers. The sooner we recover from setbacks, the more equipped we’ll be to move on to the next challenge without bogging ourselves down with past failures.

The key is to recognize the top traits of resilient women and adapt them to our own leadership situations.

Down Doesn’t Mean Out

How important is the ability to bounce back? For women leaders, it’s a must—and the upside is, we’re pretty good at it already.

More than two-thirds of corporate leaders worldwide rate resilience as “extremely important” in determining who to keep on the job, according to a Accenture survey of 524 senior executives from medium to large companies in 20 countries. Moreover, these leaders said they view women as slightly more resilient than men, and thus promote programs that encourage female professionals to further develop their resilience.

The research was released as part of Accenture’s celebration of International Women’s Day, and it showed that in climates of economic uncertainty and intense competitiveness (like today’s!), leaders who instill resilience in their organizations and employee forces have a clear advantage.

Our ability to shake it off shows others how we deal with adversity and cope with setbacks. But our attitude about rebounding from crisis can also do wonders for our own outlook.

Deana Murphy, author and affiliate member of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital, recently outlined in a Huffington Post report some 20 telling traits of resilient female leaders. Based on those ideas, we recount 10 of them here.

Which ones do you recognize in yourself—and which could you improve?

Top 10 Traits of a Resilient Woman Leader

  1. She presses forward through troubles, and celebrates even small wins. She knows even women who ace their jobs will face roadblocks; knowing how to get around them helps build fortitude in both work and life.
  1. She quickly adapts to circumstances. She keeps her eyes open to recognize opportunities to correct problems and can sense indications of potential trouble. She’s adept at learning from past mistakes and finds no need to emphasize the negatives.
  1. She’s part of something bigger than herself. It’s not just about her own success. She appreciates the role she plays in her organization and how it can help it and everyone around her succeed.
  1. She takes advantage of coaching. In rough patches, she can rally the strength and expertise of a good mentor and can do the same for those she leads.
  1. She revitalizes herself. She knows if she’s not at her best physically, intellectually, spiritually and/or emotionally, it’s harder to turn her best efforts into a winning strategy.
  1. She’s well­-rounded. She’s a hard worker, but knows how to balance her private and personal life with her career goals. She tries to avoid situations that force her to compromise family and personal responsibilities for her work.
  1. She doesn’t define herself as the job. She knows her intrinsic worth, and can separate who she is from what she can accomplish.
  1. She avoids getting defensive. She recognizes problems but works quickly to diminish their impact, and doesn’t waste time pointing fingers or shiftig blame.
  1. She embraces change. She can refine and even reinvent who she is. She can make ­positive reversals based on reality, and acknowledge when to listen to others’ advice.
  2. She honors and respects other women. She gets no joy from seeing another woman stumble (even if it’s a rival!) and can celebrate other women’s achievements while still being proud of her own.