Resilient leadership: Don’t just empower – emancipate!

By liamarus, 10 September, 2013

I’ve had many managers in my time and these individuals have had very different managerial styles. It goes without saying that the people who’ve led me in a nurturing and uplifting manner have had more of an impact on my development and growth as a person – both in my career and personally – than those who merely shouted at me and insulted me when I did something wrong. These managers are not just managers; they are resilient leaders.


According to Bonang Mohale - chairman and country GM: commercial at Shell South Africa (Pty) Ltd and the driving force behind resilient leadership – a resilient leader is one who:

  • Helps the people they manage look at themselves more positively,
  • Keeps things in perspective,
  • Takes care of themselves,
  • Makes connections,
  • Avoids seeing crises as insurmountable problems,
  • Accepts that change is a part of living,
  • Moves towards their goals, and
  • Looks for opportunities for self-discovery.

Resilient leadership replaces the traditional stereotype of a vertical work relationship between a manager and the person he manages, a leader-follower relationship, with a horizontal model of leader-leader.  Resilient leaders choose to emancipate others rather than just empower them.

  • What are the benefits of resilient leadership?
  • Bonang says that resilient leadership gives you the ability to:
  • Bounce back from adversity,
  • Thrive on new challenges,
  • Impact others positively, and
  • Reach your full potential by exercising your talents in a meaningful way.
  • How to become a resilient leader
  • ‘Don’t just empower – emancipate!’

Bonang’s passion and enthusiasm about resilient leadership completely bowled me over. I found myself getting excited about this leadership style as he gave me a breakdown of the do’s and don’ts of resilient leadership, which are listed in the table below:

Don't do this! (Leader-follower model) Do this! (Leader-leader model)
Take control Give control
Give orders Avoid giving orders
When you give orders, be confident and unambigious When you do give orders, leave room for questions
Brief Certify
Have meetings Have conversations
Have a montor-mentee programme Have a mentor-mentor programme
Focus on technology Focus on people
Think short term Think long term
Have high-repetition, low-quality training sessions Have low-repetition, high-quality training sessions
Limit communications to terse and formal orders Communicate in a rich, contextual and informal manner
Question everything Be curious about everything
Make inefficient processes efficient Eliminate entire processes that don't add value
Increase monitoring and inspection points Reduce monitoring and inspection points
Protect information Pass information

* Leadership Development Conference presented by Knowledge Resources – PowerPoint slideshow by Bonang Mohale

The three Cs: Guiding mechanisms of resilient leadership

Resilient leadership is controlled, competent and clear. Each mechanism has several guiding principles leaders should try to follow.

1. Control

  • Act your way to new thinking,Short and early conversations make efficient work, 
  • Use “I intend to …” to turn passive followers into active leaders,
  • Resist the urge to provide solutions,
  • Eliminate top-down monitoring systems, and
  • Think out loud (both superiors and subordinates).

2. Competence

  • Take deliberate action,Learn – everywhere and all the time,
  • Don’t brief - certify,
  • Continuously and consistently repeat your message, and
  • Specify goals, not methods.

3. Clarity

  • Achieve excellence; don’t just avoid errors,Build trust and take care of your people, 
  • Use your legacy for inspiration,
  • Use guiding principles for decision-making criteria,
  • Use immediate recognition to reinforce desired behaviours, 
  • Begin with the end in mind, and
  • Encourage a questioning attitude and avoid blind obedience.

by Frew Murdoch

This article first appeared on HR Pulse.



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