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Promoting Resilient Leadership

Our organization has designed a tool to support leaders as they reflect on how to promote the capacity for resilience in staff.

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The Devereux Resilient Leadership Survey (DERLS) was created to support leaders in the education and helping professions as they reflect on how to promote the capacity for resilience in staff. The DERLS focuses a leader’s attention on 4 important protective factors areas including; Relationships, Internal Beliefs, Initiative and Self- Control. Each item on this survey highlights an important way in which a leader can foster a more resilient team. This survey is supported by an extensive literature review and complements the Devereux Adult Resilient Survey (DARS) that was designed for adults who want to reflect on their own resilience. It is recommended that leaders complete a DARS on themselves and attend to their own resilience while also reflecting on the DERLS and attending to the resilience of their staff. In the attached packet, you will find the DERLS and a small sampling of strategies. For this sample packet we have identified four items/questions from the DERLS (one from each of the four main areas) and offer 3 strategies for each (a total of 12 strategies). Leaders will find three types of strategies offered including Reflection, Action and Activity based suggestions. Reflection Strategies are designed for the leader to take quiet time to think more deeply about an idea, while Action Strategies are direct action steps and behaviors a leader can engage in with staff in order to foster resilience. Finally, there are Activity Strategies that include exercises and experiences a leader can facilitate with their team in order to increase awareness, deepen conversations, create connections and build resilience. Leaders may choose to use some of all the strategies offered depending upon their needs.

Idea Title

Resilient Leadership: Building The Bounce of Staff!

How the Idea will inspire the experience and expression of gratitude within an organization.

Gratitude is instrumental to resilience and our work/life satisfaction. When we are faced with stress, adversity, and challenge, a focus on what’s going well in other parts of our work and life and being able to connect with a feeling of being thankful for that, helps us to bounce back and move forward in a positive direction. Much of the research that has been done on resilience emphasizes the role that gratitude plays in emotional regulation, optimistic thinking and goal setting. The Devereux Resilient Leadership Survey is a simple tool that can be used to help leaders be more intentional not only about their gratitude practices but also overall practices to promote a resilient workforce

Who are you innovating for?

We are innovating for leaders in human services fields, who are typically faced with unique challenges in providing services to children, adults and families with high levels of need. We hope that by offering high quality, easy to use tools and strategies that are practical and portable, we can have an impact on keeping talented leaders in the field who can support a workforce who needs resilience to do the important work they do each and every day.

What type of workplaces are you innovating for?

We are designing this tool and companion training and resources to support those in the human services field to recognize the importance of taking care of their own health and well-being as well as strategies to support those that they are leading. We believe that helping leaders to lead in resilient ways will support a more resilient work-force and trickle down to those that they serve.

How you envision the Idea being introduced to your selected organization?

At the current time, the Devereux Resilient Leadership Survey (DERLS) is available for free on our website. We hope for funds to continue to do research that can further inform our model for delivery to organizations and well as the development of strategies that leaders can use to foster resilient leadership practices. While anyone can access the (DERLS) often agencies want protected time to do professional development, with time to reflect, discuss strategies and develop plans to put strategies in place. We also have a publisher that should we have funds to further develop our strategies, could publish a companion resource to the DERLS for use by human service agencies across the nation

What obstacles, if any, do you foresee in implementing this Idea, and how would they be overcome?

Agencies are busy. They often have big challenges with not as much funding needed to do what they know they need to do to help those that they serve. While it may be a challenge to find time to reflect on resilience practices, we do believe that the Devereux Adult Resilience Survey, strategies and optional professional development is inexpensive, offers everyday strategies that can be integrated into already existing practices, and is DOABLE!

How will you test and prototype your solution?

We are about to start a small, randomized control trial with a large for profit child care organization where we will provide webinar training and support to directors around the Devereux Resilient Leadership Survey. The webinars will help directors/leaders understand more deeply the factors that promote resilient leadership and then, in between each webinar session, they will have the opportunity to select an area they want to improve upon and put a strategy in place to support practices.

What immediate next steps will you take if you receive an implementation grant.

We would use funds to further research the impact of the DERLS and develop the companion strategies to provide leaders with additional research-based strategies to support resilient leadership. We would LOVE the opportunity to work with the Greater Good Science Center to support and inform the development of this content to be used by the human services field and perhaps beyond!

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.
  • Prototyping: You have conducted some small tests or experiments with prospective users and will continue developing idea through these tests.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

Adults must take responsibility for their own well-being, but this is often hard when resources are low, stress is high and caregivers and educators are feeling alone. All adults need “a well” who they can turn to for extra support. Administrators, supervisors, managers, mentors, coaches and leaders can be that “well” but will need strategies and skills to provide resilient leadership that will help keep staff resilient, so they can in turn support children.

Tell us about yourself

Debi Mahler, LCSW, and I am the Director of Professional Development for the Devereux Center for Resilient Children. Comprised of education, mental health, and research professionals, the DCRC team develops strength-based assessment and strategy resources supported by some of the best and most thorough developmental research in the fields of social and emotional development and resilience.

Where are you / your team located?

The Devereux Center for Resilient Children is located in Villanova, PA.

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

Devereux is a private, not-for-profit organization.

Company / Organization Name

Devereux Center for Resilient Children


Tell us about your experience

Our team started doing our work in the mid 90s when the organization started to notice younger and younger children needing more intensive treatment services. We wanted to think about how we could PREVENT and reduce challenging behavior in young children and worked to develop a prevention model that helps people think about how to measure and strengthen PROTECTIVE FACTORS in young children to help them be more resilient. Healthy children need healthy adults! We support resilient adults, too!
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Attachments (2)


This is the Devereux Resilient Leadership Survey (DERLS), a tool to help leaders reflect on leadership behaviors that can foster resilience in staff.

DERLS Literature Review - FINAL.pdf

This document provides the research that supports the development of the items on the Devereux Resilient Leadership Survey.

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Debi,

Great to see you in the Ideas Phase of the Challenge! I'm curious about what would incentivize people to participate in this initiative?

Also, is there any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.

Please update your post within the next hour! The Ideas Phase closes today at 3:00 p.m. Pacific Time.

Excited to learn more!