Life comes with uncertainty, and with it comes various forms of leadership. Ultimately, who we are and how we interact with others depends on our own personal leadership.

That’s an article I plan to cover ahead, but today we’re looking at resilient vs. servant leadership and particularly the question:

How does resilient leadership differ from servant leadership?

First, a question for you to consider. Don’t dwell on it. What’s your first thought?

Are you a person who pushes through amid challenge, or do you prioritize service to empower those around you?

As we look ahead, there’s benefit in not choosing a single side, but how do we apply the transformative power of each approach?

Unveiling the Core Differences

Resilient leadership is like a storm-tested oak. The winds and storms may bend the branches, yet it rarely breaks.

Have you ever seen a 100-year-old oak with branches spreading out as though it reaches out with power from within? It thrives on adaptability, the ability to navigate environmental challenges with resourcefulness and determination.

Resilient Leadership

Under a resilient leader, teams rally in the face of hardship, drawing strength from the leader’s unwavering resolve.

Consider for a moment Captain “Sully” Sullenberger, as he ditched US Airways flight 1549 into the Hudson River on a frigid January day.

Tasked with the safety of 155 people, he stayed focused and landed the crippled plane. His actions were a testament to resilient leadership in action.

Servant Leadership

Conversely, servant leadership operates with a heart of kindness and focuses on empowering others. In the same way, a gardener cares for and nourishes seedlings, patiently supporting their growth.

Servant leaders prioritize the needs of their team, reaffirming collaboration and individual development.

An Albanian Catholic nun dedicated her life to serving the poor. She established hospice homes for the dying, and orphanages for poor, unparented children.

Mother Theresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, and as a world renown servant leader, put others as the priority. She led by example with empathy, humility, and unconditional love and care.

Choosing the Right Tool for the Job

Resilience Creates Resilience

Both leadership styles have tremendous strengths, and choosing the right one depends on the context. While people are always important, sometimes a situation occurs that says, “It’s time for business.”

I remember such an incident as a Navy helicopter crewman.

We flew equipment into a tight area in a Panamanian jungle on a small island. I was lying on my stomach and hanging out the door, watching a load below us.

Suddenly, I could feel and hear the powerful jolting that came when our helicopter blades hit the trees while in a hover. We dropped the load, and the pilot worked to get us out of the jungle and back to the ship. The three of us in that helo had a job, and we knew what to do.

The pilot had the aircraft, the co-pilot managed the emergency communications, and I prepared our rafts in case we had to ditch in heavily shark-infested waters.

I honestly believe the calm focus we all had came from the resilience and focus of our pilot.

Note: In my book, “Covered From Above — A Shield From Injury or Death” I describe this incident along with a witness that was there.

Leadership by Lifting

To build organizations with a healthy culture and climate, you need to build people. After retiring from two military services, I accepted a position with a government organization.

This was a place that resembled toxic “leadership by command” mentality. That was not a servant leadership mindset that supported the workforce. I mention this only for contrast.

Amid the challenging circumstances, there were pockets of excellence.

They pursued innovation, nurtured talent and empowered people to grow, create wonderful careers and support our national interests in incredible ways. You may be in an organization that causes mental discomfort just to think about them.

KNOW THIS: You can grow and thrive where you are.

When you mentor and lift others around you, there’s an internal growth that occurs within you. That’s what I call, “Fruit on your leadership tree.” I have a small white binder and inside is a picture of a tree.

On the tree are small green leaves with the names of people I’ve led, lifted, or mentored. Many of those people surpassed me in their careers and that’s the fruit on my leadership tree.

Don’t let challenging situations hold you back from lifting others and yourself. When creating a supportive environment that empowers team members to take ownership, you become a servant leader.

You lead by lifting the full potential of others.

Consider the historical examples of technology giants that encouraged employee-driven innovation. It doesn’t matter what kind of computer, smart phone or tablet you’re using to read this, those manufacturers encouraged creativity, developed their workforce and became international technology titans.

Building Unstoppable Teams with Dual Focus

Strength in leadership comes from willingness to apply both a resilient and servant leadership approach, depending on the need. Leaders who encourage both styles build unstoppable teams capable of weathering any situation.

Consider a mountain climbing team. The leader’s resilience guides them through difficult terrain, while their servant leadership ensures each member feels supported, empowered and confident to know they can reach the summit.

Cultivating these dual styles of leadership requires conscious effort. Effective leaders can empower their own capabilities by strengthening their emotional intelligence skills, learning to navigate challenging situations with both resolve and empathy.

Second, leaders that create a culture of open communication and feedback allow them to adapt their approach based on the needs of their team and situations.

Putting it Together

In today’s dynamic landscape, resilient and servant leadership are not opposing forces, but two strong sides of each person, team and organization.

When leaders learn, apply, and build their unique strengths, they create adaptable and empowered, capable teams.

The next time you face a leadership intersection, it’s not about choosing between resilience or service. Apply some of each as needed for the environment to lift people and achieve organizational success.

How About You?

Many consider the one or the other leadership approach. Are you now ready to begin your journey towards dual leadership? Start by reflecting on your own strengths and areas for growth.

Seek mentors and resources that inspire you, and don’t be afraid to experiment and adapt your approach. The most powerful leaders are those who are constantly learning and evolving.

Has this article helped you see things differently? Leave a comment and share what helps, or what you’d prefer to see. Consider subscribing for updates for resources like this.

About the Author

Anthony M. Davis is a Certified Leadership, Success and Stress Coach. He is a clinically trained Board Certified Hypnotherapist.

He has earned a national reputation for his Transformative Life Centering work with clients from across the nation. His unique approach helps clients remove underlying fears and triggers, and then, through coaching, helps them pursue and accomplish life and career goals.

He provides Coaching and Hypnotherapy sessions remotely through Zoom. If you have challenges and are ready to move past them, Contact him Here to create the life change you desire.