Leaders Can Foster Resilient Behaviors in Employees

Certain leadership styles and characteristics can promote the development of resilience among employees, reports a study in the December Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
“Leaders can, by enacting servant leadership and through their psychological capital, foster resilient behaviors in employees, which may help employees cope with work-related stress,” according to the new research by Marjolein C.J. Cainëls, PhD, and Dave Stynen, PhD, of Open Universiteit, Heerland, the Netherlands. They analyzed data from repeated assessments of 111 leader-follower pairs to explore leadership qualities associated with development of resilient behaviors in employees.
The study identified two qualities associated with the development of resilient behaviors. One was a servant leadership style, focusing on employees’ personal progress by providing chances for them to develop and grow. The other was the leader's own psychological capital, referring to personal resources—such as self-efficacy, resilience, optimism, and hope — available to individuals at work.
These two leadership qualities seemed to act by strengthening the employee's own psychological capital, thus fostering the development of resilience. In contrast, resilient leadership was initially associated with lower employee psychological capital, although more resilient employee behaviors emerged over time.
Employees may find resilient leadership “overwhelming” at first, until they develop their own psychological resources, the researchers suggest. They write, “When individuals experience resilience capabilities like optimism and hope and have gained experience in responding to feedback of others, deploying change in the workplace, learned from mistakes they may better equipped to further enact resilient behavior.”
Drs. Cainëls and Dave Stynen discuss the managerial implications for efforts to promote employee resilience. Steps to encourage servant leadership within the organization might include “limiting span of control and breaking down hierarchical barriers between leaders and their followers.” The researchers also propose active steps to stimulate employee resilience — “for example, by designing and adopting supportive, resilience-enhancing work practices, such as flexible work arrangements and coaching and mentoring trajectories.”
About the Author
Dr. Stynen may be contacted for interviews at dave.stynen@ou.nl.
ACOEM (www.acoem.org), an international society of 4,000 occupational physicians and other health care professionals, provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments.
About the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (www.joem.org) is the official journal of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Edited to serve as a guide for physicians, nurses, and researchers, the clinically oriented research articles are an excellent source for new ideas, concepts, techniques, and procedures that can be readily applied in the industrial or commercial employment setting.


Caniëls MCJ; Stynen D. The role of the leader in fostering employee resilient behaviors: a multisource, longitudinal study. J Occup Environ Med. 2022;64(12):985-993.