Healthy Leaders: Resilience

By Rita Bergsma  |  December 7th

Advent: hope, peace, love, and joy. The anticipation and celebration of Christmas is a highlight in our lives and in the lives of our school communities.

And then there is Advent in 2020. As leaders, we are tired and weary, and our capacity to be joyful and resilient is waning. Rather than celebrating this season, perhaps your heart is resonating with unspoken lament rather than joy, crying out, “How long, Lord?”

In 2 Thessalonians, early Christian leaders asked this same question. Although the question originated from different circumstances, Paul’s response may be applicable to many today. Paul instructed early Christians to be alert and self-controlled, guiding them to a place where they focus on how to live. The value of embodying Christ as leaders is not a foreign concept, nor is the understanding that a weary leader does not do this well.

It is not unusual to walk through periods of leadership challenges characterized by sleepless nights and fragile conversations; however, in these months of pandemic, our energy and enthusiasm is draining at an unprecedented rate. Is it time, perhaps past time, to examine the continuum of our lives and pause? Are we too weary to lead and celebrate in this season of Advent?

Compartmentalizing life into family as responsibility, and work as God’s calling, is not a Biblical interpretation of life. All of life is called to be under God’s domain and Christ-like in its vision. Yet, life has become very unbalanced. Shifting the fulcrum and regaining balance is integral to the well-being of our families, our school communities, and ourselves. We experience the most success when we lead from a place of rest and alertness, and when our “buckets” are being filled at a rate that is on par or greater than the rate of drain.

Wayne Cordeiro, pastor and author, advises that leading from a place of rest builds resiliency and requires intentionality. He recommends a few practical steps:

  • Know or discover what fills your buckets, providing joy in life. Plan it in abundance and as a priority to develop physical and mental well-being. When buckets are full, we are better prepared to celebrate, handle drain, and provide clear and wise direction in times of crises.
  • Lead from a place of wisdom. All wisdom in its very essence comes from God’s Word. Read, journal, pray, and immerse yourself in His wisdom.
  • Find a “lightning rod” with which to remain grounded. Seek out a trusted person who listens, counsels, and guides you back to that place of stability that allows you to step back into a creative and productive mode of moving mission and vision forward.

Resilient leadership embodies humility and allows us to learn from God and others. As Ruth Haley Barton writes in Strengthening the Soul of your Leadership, “It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing this.”

In this season of Advent, as you lead your community, be blessed with hope, peace, love, and joy. Know that in Him, you can obtain the rest you need to be resilient. And may the peace of God dwell richly in your soul.


Rita Bergsma is the Seaway Valley Cohort Leader for Edvance, and Principal at Community Christian School in Metcalfe, Ontario.