Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

Building-up resilience and being effective leaders in the workplace: A systematic review and synthesis model

Yu, M., Wen, J., Smith, S.M. and Stokes, P. (2022) Building-up resilience and being effective leaders in the workplace: A systematic review and synthesis model. Leadership & Organization Development Journal .

Link to Published Version:
*Subscription may be required



Psychological resilience, defined here as the capacity to bounce back from adversity and failure, has been studied in various leadership contexts. However, the literature demonstrates less consensus concerning how psychological resilience manifests in, and interacts within, the leadership role and, equally, the focus on resilience development is underdeveloped. This paper addresses these issues by focusing on the interactions between psychological resilience and leadership and presents practical development strategies.


A systematic review employing 46 empirical studies followed a thematic synthesis within an associated model encapsulated as building-up resilience and being effective.


First, resilience is identified as essential and can benefit individuals and organizations' work outcomes across leadership contexts, including work performance, job engagement, well-being, and enhanced leadership capability. Secondly, leaders may build up their resilience by obtaining coping skills and improved attitudes toward challenges. Resilient attitudes, which are presented as paradoxical perspectives towards challenges, may help leaders adapt to challenges and adversities leading to beneficial outcomes.

Research limitations/implications

Even though this study provides a deeper understanding of the essential function of psychological resilience in leadership, the findings are limited to the workplace contexts investigated, e.g. exploring small sample sizes (13,019) or country contexts (22). Future research could expand the rhetoric around interactions between psychological resilience and leadership. Furthermore, the underlining mechanism between the paradoxical perspective and resilient attitudes is still largely unclear. Thus, more research is needed to disclose the interaction of paradoxical perceptions and leadership resilience. Further research can investigate how resilient attitudes demonstrate in actions in dealing with challenges and adversities.

Practical implications

The authors further an argument that leaders may enhance their resilience through embracing a paradoxical perspective towards challenges (resilient attitude), e.g. being adaptive to adversities, and the attitude of learning from failures. These enhanced resilient attitudes could help leaders deeper understand and examine their reality and persist under high pressures and develop an innate ability to utilise resources more effectively to help them survive and thrive in challenging circumstances, instead of becoming overwhelmed by the burden of complexity or giving up. This will offer a practical contribution to resilience development.

Social implications

Importantly, this study found that resilience is an essential leadership trait and can benefit individuals and organizations' work outcomes across leadership contexts. These positive effects of resilience may encourage organizations or society to promote psychological resilience, including a resilient attitude, to deal with adversities and uncertainties.


Fundamentally, the synthesized model applied may encourage further studies to focus on how to build up resilience and practically apply it in workplaces across leadership contexts. In particular, this study found that adopting paradoxical perspectives and ambidextrous leadership approaches toward adversities is an original resilience development strategy, which serves to contribute to the gap in the literature.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Murdoch Business School
Publisher: Emerald Publishing Limited
Copyright: © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited
Item Control Page Item Control Page