Resilient leaders are those who can take action to support communities in the face of uncertainty and rapid change.

At Island Institute, we understand the importance of leadership in addressing today’s most pressing issues. Building on over 35 years of community development practice, we created a framework to help strengthen leadership skills within community members, business owners, nonprofit staff, and municipal leaders along Maine’s coast who are most at risk from the social and economic impacts of climate change.

Based on academic research and on-the-ground experience, our Resilient Leadership Framework identifies seven competencies and skills needed to embrace change and build resilience. These competencies serve as the foundation for everything we do and can be practiced at the individual, team, and community or organizational level.

Click on a competency or navigate below to explore the framework and learn more!

Resilient Leadership Framework

Practices self-awareness

Understanding one’s strengths, limitations, and the impact of one’s behaviors.

  • Identify and cultivate the strengths of self and others.
  • Ask for and adapt to feedback.
  • Understand the consequences of our attitudes and behaviors on outcomes.
  • Acknowledge mistakes and adjust non-productive strategies.
  • Act ethically and with integrity.

Learn more about practicing self-awareness in leadership through the following examples:


Communicates effectively

Uses appropriate communication styles for clarity, understanding, and to build trust.

  • Foster clear and open communication through active listening, asking clarifying questions, and speaking concisely for the audience and situation.
  • Mitigate distractions and seek to be fully present.
  • Understand different audiences, communication and learning styles, and adapt to the context.

Learn more about communicating effectively in leadership through the following examples:

INDIVIDUAL | Team | organization

Develops effective connections and relationships

Understanding and responding to the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors of others to develop effective relationships.

  • Understand the impact and necessity of controversial decision making while maintaining respectful relationships.
  • Actively seek out and incorporate alternative points of view and input.
  • Actively listen and seek to understand and address conflicts through empathy, diplomacy, and patience.
  • Identify and cultivate connections needed to reach decisions and sustain momentum.
  • Recognize and adapt the systems that inhibit connection building.
  • Proactively build trust to work together effectively.

Learn more about developing effective connections and relationships through the following examples:

Individual | Team | Community

Innovates and encourages innovation

Identify when innovation is needed to achieve results and how to set the conditions for experimentation and learning.

  • Tap into community creativity and networks to discover alternative approaches and possibilities.
  • Know when a plan needs to remain on course and when a plan needs to be adjusted.
  • Recognize when opportunities for innovation exist and when innovation isn’t the appropriate response.
  • Understand and foster the conditions needed for innovation to take hold and yield results.

Learn more about innovating and encouraging innovation through the following examples:

Individual | Team | ORGANIZATION

Navigates systems

Steers through complex social and structural systems to understand and mitigate problems facing organizations and communities.

  • Build connections and identify strategic allies: affirm commonalities and support differences between members.
  • Acknowledge and account for objections while seeking to identify areas of consensus and gather useful information to move forward.
  • Understand the role that allies and information play in systems.
  • Maintain a focus on goals while addressing the incremental steps to achieve them.
  • Know the community, understanding the power of place, culture, and history.

Learn more about navigating systems in leadership through the following examples:

Individual | Team | Community

Promotes engagement

Engages individuals and groups to deepen understanding and achieve shared outcomes.

  • Identify and cultivate strengths of others.
  • Model respect and openness to others.
  • Seek and actively create space for the ideas and leadership of others, including marginalized groups.
  • Foster empowerment through enhancing the ability and confidence of others to effectively engage.

Learn more about promoting engagement in leadership through the following examples:

Individual | Team | Community

Influences change

Drives progress while balancing aspirations with the reality of needs and capacity.

  • Effectively manage the tensions incumbent with rapid change.
  • Understand that change requires strategy, courage, and the ability to bear pressure
  • Nurture and maintain resilient relationships to support complex change
  • Build partnerships to solve complex problems
  • Set unifying goals that emphasize cooperation and collective success

Learn more about influencing change in leadership through the following examples:


The materials below are designed as resources to aid the public in implementing Island Institute’s Resilient Leadership Framework.

Self-Assessment (Word Document)

Organizational Assessment (Word Document)

Leadership Learning Circles (PDF)

Conversation Starters (PDF)

Training Handout 1: Leadership Competencies & Examples (Word Document)

Training Handout 2: Competency Level Self-Assessment (Word Document)

Questions about the Resilient Leadership Framework?

Contact Kate Tagai with our Community Leadership team for more information.

To hear stories and examples of this framework in action, view our panel discussion,
Building Leadership as a Community Development Strategy for Small Islands, from the 2021 Virtual Islands Summit.

Maine Islands Coalition

The Maine Islands Coalition is a collaboration of island communities, facilitated by Island Institute staff, that discusses and, when possible, reaches consensus on issues brought forward by its appointed community representatives.

Initiated at a meeting hosted by the Institute in the fall of 2002, and formally organized in 2003, the Maine Islands Coalition (MIC) was created to provide a consistent voice for islands in Augusta, to the press, and to outside groups. Since islands are generally sparsely populated, this provides a group of citizens with common interests and problems a stronger voice at the state level.