One of the keys to a resilient business is great leadership. Whether your business faces a crisis like a cyberattack, a battle for market share with increasingly worthy competitors or you're simply going through digital transformation, leadership can be the difference between success and failure.

But what makes a great leader?

We asked 500 C-Suite respondents in U.S. companies with 500+ employees what traits resilient business leaders possess. The answers paint a picture of strength and adaptability. How many traits does your leadership possess and how can they help you overcome a disaster?

Resilient Leaders Exude Confidence

The most selected answer was confidence, earning a vote from 28% of respondents. Great leaders exude confidence in the face of competition, disasters, and other disruptions. If you've designed a strong DR program, tiered your applications, and regularly test your ability to recover, that confidence is well-founded.

Unfortunately, too many organizations don't perform full testing or fail to keep their DR plan in line with their production environment. Some of these leaders will still be confident, but confidence alone isn't enough without action behind it. The key to confidence is being prepared.

Resilient Leaders Are Able to Innovate

With a quarter of respondents agreeing, ability to innovate was the second most common answer, and for good reason.

No business survives on the status quo. As every company pursues digital transformation, they need leaders who understand the importance of that evolution and champion the changes. Having a leader to encourage the entire company to embrace change is often key to the success of those initiatives — especially when they become difficult or involve growing pains. This is important also in terms of disaster recovery preparedness – making sure your DR plans stay in sync with the changes being driven by innovation.

Resilient Leaders Remain Calm in a Crisis

This is the ultimate test of any leader. No matter how prepared you are for a disaster, when a hurricane, flood, cyberattack, or equipment failure occurs, there will be an urge to panic. Perhaps that's why the ability to remain calm in a crisis was cited by 23% of respondents as a trait leaders must possess.

Organizations that have thoroughly and repeatedly tested their program should weather a disaster calmly and in control, having drilled on the exact situation repeatedly. Well-tested teams with cool heads will prevail and can better assess whether you need to declare a disaster. Experience is also critical to staying calm. Leaders need to make sure they have the right level of organizational expertise to handle a disaster recovery, whether through internal resources or partnering with a service provider.

Leaders set an example, and those who remain calm and collected during an incident can ensure teams act quickly and with focus to mitigate any issues.

Resilient Leaders Demonstrate Integrity

Integrity rounds out the top four traits, also receiving a nod from 23% of respondents. Integrity is a form of resilience in a leader. It's a set of ethics and a sense of fairness that attracts and develops a team with values.

A leader with integrity can make the right choice in difficult circumstances. Especially when executing recovery tests, it can be easy to adopt a "check box" approach and do the minimum to meet requirements. Operating with integrity by "not cheating on the test" ensures the organization is prepared when a real disaster strikes.

Integrity means leaders ensure everyone is trained in the new methods, but also that they understand not every employee will like change or adherence to principles — some might even leave the company. A leader's integrity just means that the entire process will be transparent and that gaps or deficiencies during testing will be communicated fairly and honestly and appropriate remediation actions will be taken.

Mid-tier Traits — Less Valued, but Still Important

Creativity (21%), accountability (20%), data skills (19%), an ability to clearly communicate (18%), and commitment (18%) all fell in the middle range of responses. Many of these, like the top four, speak to the importance of trust, and many of them are critical when an organization is in the midst of a disaster or a change.

Data skills, for example, are increasingly prized as organizations amass data that they then have to mine for insights — as well as store and protect. Accountability and commitment speak to the discipline required to enact the governance and best practices. Creativity again touches on a leader's ability to find new paths forward and adopt the people, process, and technology to make them happen.

The Bottom of the List

The ability to collaborate (15%), proactivity (14%), tech savviness (13%), financial acumen (13%), and ability to efficiently delegate (12%) were all at the bottom of the list.

Interestingly, some of them are traits one might assume business leaders need, from general ones like the ability to delegate, to more specific ones like tech savviness and financial acumen. While those skills are obviously still important in resilient leaders, survey respondents thought they were less important than some of the other traits that lead to more big picture resilience for the company over the long term.

It might be that many assume leaders will have these skills, while the ones that truly set leaders apart are their confidence, ability to innovate, ability to remain calm in a crisis, and integrity.

With those four traits, leaders can pave the way toward resiliency.

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