Department of Politics and Public Administration

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Paradoxical leadership in ever-changing organizations

Background and Goals

Recent research on ambidextrous leadership (Bledow, Frese, Anderson, Erez, & Farr, 2009; Gebert & Kearney, 2011; Rosing, Frese, & Bausch, 2011) and paradoxical leadership (Lavine, 2014; Smith, Besharov, Wessels, & Chertok, 2012) is a promising new direction for research on effective leadership in innovative and ever-changing organizational environments. However, as those two concepts are similar but still distinct and there are different approaches within ambidextrous leadership (Gebert & Kearney, 2011; Rosing et al., 2011), thorough concept definition and measurement is needed to establish a systematical research program on this promising direction of leadership.
In this research project we first develop an integrated conceptualization of paradoxical leadership. Second, we develop and test a measurement instrument for use in applied field research. Third, we will investigate the mechanisms that tie paradoxical leadership to performance in ever-changing environments.

Collaboration and Funding

This project, sponsored by the Zukunftskolleg Mentorship Program 2014, is conducted together with Prof. Daan van Knippenberg (Rotterdam School of Management).

Selected Literature

Bledow, R., Frese, M., Anderson, N., Erez, M., & Farr, J. (2009). A dialectic perspective on innovation: Conflicting demands, multiple pathways, and ambidexterity. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 2, 305–337.

Gebert, D., & Kearney, E. (2011). Ambidextre Führung. Zeitschrift für Arbeits- und Organisationspsychologie A&O, 55(2), 74–87. doi:10.1026/0932-4089/a000043 

Smith, W. E., Besharov, M. L., Wessels, A. K., & Chertok, M. (2012). A paradoxical leaderhsip model for social entrepreneurs: Challenges, leadership skills, and pedagoical tools for managing social and commercial demands. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 11(3), 463–478.

Sparr, J. L., & Peus, C. (2014, September). Ambidextrous leadership and employee change responses over the course of change: exploring the role of fairness perceptions. Paper accepted for presentation at the 49th Congress of the DGPs (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychologie), Bochum, Germany.

Diversity and team innovation: The moderating role of transformational leadership


The overall aim of this research project is to investigate the promise of transformational leadership in fostering the innovativeness of diverse teams. Informationally diverse teams (i.e., teams whose members differ with regard to their knowledge, skills, and abilities) constitute an essential building block of many organizations, particularly in the areas of product development and research and development. The expectation on the part of the organizations is that the heterogeneous perspectives, skills, and knowledge of the diverse team members lead to an improved overall team innovativeness. However, this expectation cannot be confirmed by extant empirical research; rather, positive, negative, as well as non-significant effects of various attributes of informational diversity on team innovation can be found. Against this background, the analysis of critical contextual conditions (i.e., moderators) appears to be of particular relevance for fostering innovation in diverse teams. At the same time, leadership has only marginally been examined in this context; thus, this research project aims at investigating the moderating role of transformational leadership in informationally diverse teams. In particular, on the basis of the identification of intervening group processes between informational diversity and team innovation (i.e., mediators) the moderating role of transformational leadership is scrutinized. Thereby, transformational leadership appears to be a particularly promising approach since its innovation-enhancing potential has already been demonstrated in other contexts. The guiding question of this research project is: Does informational diversity have a positive impact on team innovation under high levels of transformational leadership?

Research design

For an empirical examination of the theoretical model, research and development teams as well as product development teams from different branches will be surveyed. Data will be gathered from both leaders and members of the teams under investigation. Hypotheses will be tested using multiple regression analysis and structural equation modeling.


Hüttermann, Hendrik & Boerner, Sabine (2011). Fostering innovation in functionally diverse teams: The two faces of transformational leadership. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 20(6), 833-854.

Döring, S., Schreiner, M., & Hüttermann, H. (2010, August). Constructing a collective identity in diverse teams. Paper presented at the 2010 Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Montréal, QC. (Emerald Best Student Paper Award, Academy of Management GDO Divison)

Hüttermann, H., & Boerner, S. (2009, August). Functional diversity and team innovation: The moderating role of transformational leadership. Paper presented at the 2009 Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL.