Understanding Resilience: Five Stages of Internal Crisis Response

One of the greatest obstacles to leading with resilience and incorporating that resilience into your leadership practice is dealing with your own internal crisis. 

One of the side effects of dealing with a crisis or challenge is that it can shut us down emotionally.  

This means we are simultaneously fighting on two fronts – dealing with both internal (personal)  and external (organizational) challenges.

How you deal with one directly affects the other. And your success will impact how you lead others through crises. 


There are actually five stages to how we all respond to crises. And understanding them will help you be more effective at managing your own actions and leading others. 

Stage 1: Victim 

We’ve all been here at one point or another. Something beyond your control happens and you’re in a state of denial. This can’t be happening! 

The lack of control leads us to blame others for what is happening and, therefore, others control your destiny. You’re stuck in fear and despair. 

Stage 2: Settled 

 When the pity party is over, we move on to acceptance or a settled state. In this phase you aren’t happy – but you feel powerless to change the situation. This is a dangerous stage as it becomes all too easy to stop caring and simply get back to business as usual – diminished on how you see yourself and your ability to impact those around you. If you continue to see yourself as powerless as the world changes around you – it will manifest itself in your confidence and be reflected in your ability to lead. 

Stage 3: Surviving 

When you get through the settled stage we begin to figure out the “new normal” and our place in it. We make changes to how we operate and adapt.  

During this stage we may wear a mask of confidence – while still being somewhat uncomfortable with the status quo. However fear, indecision, and an actual lack of confidence keep us from taking the necessary steps to improve our situation. 

Stage 4: Courageous 

When we are surviving – we’re really just treading water. And that is not fun. 

Eventually we feel compelled to reclaim our confidence and our own sense of purpose. During this stage there is a strong desire for a better state of being. We begin to see a path forward and  – while still vulnerable – start to move forward, knowing things won’t change or improve unless we act. 

Stage 5: Thriving 

This is where we all want to be. And you will get here!

We take consistent actions that propel us  toward a better future and learn to  successfully operate in a new reality. 

This is resilience!

Resilience principles guide us as we work through crises  and progress toward our goals. Taking action motivates us to keep going. 

Individuals, teams and organizations are all susceptible to this response pattern.

Understanding the stages of internal crisis response and human tendencies will help you to be more empathetic to your employees’ needs and support them in building personal resilience. 

By building personal resilience, you’re in a better position to inspire collective team and organizational resilience. 


She’s a woman on a mission, prepped and ready to help you create resilient leaders and a workplace that is poised to succeed. Having weathered her fair share of corporate and career crises of all sizes, Vivian Blade MBA, MBB, PMP, is a global leadership expert and thought leader who equips leaders with the resilience that inspires teams to recover quickly in the face of ongoing disruption and thrive in spite of insurmountable odds.

Vivian empowers leaders and organizations as a frequent keynote speaker for association conferences and in delivering transformative leadership development programs, executive coaching and consulting for corporations.

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