Building people up: Leadership and employee resilience
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.