Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Building people up: Leadership and employee resilience

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posted on 2021-12-08, 08:13 authored by Franken, Esmé

This mixed method research, in the area of HR and leadership, explores leadership behaviours that foster employee resilience. Resilience is a key capacity in contexts where job demands and challenges are often dynamic and complex, such as in the public sector. This research uses a contemporary definition of resilience, one that views employee resilience as a set of behaviours that help people grow and develop in their jobs, even in the face of challenges. Two questions guide this research: 1. What leadership behaviours enable employee resilience in the public sector?, and 2. How do these behaviours enable employee resilience? This study is situated in the public sector context.  The research consists of five phases. The first phase was a cross-sectional survey of public servants’ views on whether paradoxical leadership behaviours, mediated by perceptions of organisational support, might foster resilience. These connections reflect the correspondence between paradoxical leadership and the dilemmas and paradoxes that arise in public sector work. Phases two and three concerned a series of qualitative studies which identified further leadership behaviours, as well as possible mechanisms and outcomes, and generated an explanatory framework to illustrate how managers can enable employee resilience. This led to the development of the construct resilience-enabling leadership. Phase four gathered feedback on the construct’s validity so that it could be tested quantitatively in a scale. The fifth and final phase tested the resilience-enabling leadership scale (RELS) as a predictor of resilience. It also tested psychometric properties of the scale, including factor structure, and discriminant and convergent validity.  Findings show that a unique combination of leadership behaviours that foster growth, trust and collaboration in employees, is likely to play a pivotal role in developing employee resilience. The RELS is an innovative contribution to organisational scholarship. It represents a leadership model that recognises the changing nature of leadership and responds to the development needs of employees.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Human Resource Management

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Victoria Management School


Plimmer, Geoff; Malinen, Sanna; Bryson, Jane