Developing Resilience at the Top: Leadership in 2021

Key Highlights from our January 22, 2021 Discussion on Leadership Resilience

What does resilient Leadership look like in 2021? How are organizations thinking about the risk to their organizations as the pandemic continues? What can we do as Risk professionals to strengthen resilience in the midst of this continuing crisis?  

Leading through complexity and ambiguity of business challenges is ongoing and ever-evolving. Leaders have an opportunity to draw on the foundational skills of leadership while at the same time develop new skills that help build resilience in leading from the top.

In this one-hour session held January 22, 2021, GRI President & CEO Sonia Baxendale welcomed a panel of distinguished experts who shared insights on how their organizations are adapting and supporting resilience as we face the reality of year two of the global pandemic. This highly respected group of speakers provided an engaging and pragmatic view of what you can do to provide leadership in your organization.

The panel featured:

  • Michel Buffet, PhD, Senior Client Partner, Korn Ferry, New York, an expert in leadership resiliency, shared a framework for leaders to develop resilience in 2021.
  • Cynthia Currie, Executive Vice-President and Chief Human Resources Officer, IGM Financial Inc., discussed how IGM is focusing on feedback, data analytics to understand what’s important and target initiatives that resonate and support leaders and employees.
  • John Silverthorn, Senior Vice President, Human Resources and Advisory Services, CIBC, addressed the fact that as we navigate the second wave of the pandemic - how do leaders avoid the risk of exhaustion and ensure they stay strong.

Each of the experts shared insights and practical advice on what they are doing to address the clear and present risk for leaders and their teams moving forward in 2021. Here are some of the key points:


Michel Buffet:

During a crisis, leaders need to be confident, positive, empathetic and resilient and the most effective approach is to:

  • Express a Vision that becomes everyone’s North Star
  • Communicate frequently – the only thing faster than the speed of light are rumours
  • Act – show a bias for action, accept feedback and course correct
  • Seek clarity – even with difficult topics
  • Keep it simple and prioritize what is most important




John Silverthorn:

  • Resilience has become a key capability and component of talent management at CIBC
  • The first wave of COVID-19 required significant changes to protect employees and clients
  • The second wave is actually a harder test because we are now one year in and people are fatigued with the restrictions, balancing work and looking after children and parents
  • Resilience is the ability to bend in a situation and then bounce back – trees are a perfect metaphor for resilience – only the ones that bend withstand the hurricane
  • You have to continually build resilience – it’s like exercise – simply buying an exercise bike doesn’t make you fit




Cynthia Currie:              

  • Resilience has taken on a whole new meaning – we had a strategy around resilience and the pandemic accelerated the strategy
  • We convened quickly to assess where the risks fall – this is about protecting our people and clients
  • Looked at all of our data – implemented regular and also reviewed wellness leave, vacation, use of short-term disability, use of claims for short-term disability
  • The integration and comparison of this data down to the local level will tell the story of where you need to focus
  • Manage from the centre across the organization but give local leaders the tools and authority to make the best decisions within their areas



The panel took questions from the audience in an active dialogue. One thing is for sure – resilience and the ability to continually develop the strength of your employees has become a significant factor in the overall healthy and well being of organizations.