ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2019, Vol. 51 ›› Issue (1): 117-127.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2019.00117

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Authoritarian-benevolent leadership, active implementation and job performance: An investigation on the effectiveness of ambidextrous leadership in the Chinese context

HOU Nan1,PENG Jian2,*   

  1. 1 School of Business Administration, Northeastern University, Shenyang 110169, China
    2 School of Management, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006, China
  • Received:2017-08-04 Published:2019-01-25 Online:2018-11-26
  • Contact: Jian PENG
  • Supported by:


Ambidextrous leadership is key to solving organizational tension and complex problems. This type of leadership has gained attention in the field of organizational behavior in recent years. Ambidextrous leadership refers to a set of two complementary leadership behaviors and the flexibility switch between two different behaviors. Existing studies noted the extensive benefits of ambidextrous leadership to employees and organizations. These advantages include enhancement of the psychological empowerment of employees, exploratory and exploitative behaviors, innovation, and organizational change. Prior studies focused on ambidextrous leadership from the Western context. These studies include opening-closing leadership and transformational-transactional leadership. However, the consequences of indigenous ambidextrous leadership in the Chinese context remain poorly understood. A particular ambidextrous leadership embedded in Chinese culture was identified, namely, authoritarian-benevolent leadership. The present study focuses on the combination of authoritarian and benevolent leadership, which is regarded as a type of indigenous ambidextrous leadership. The researchers aimed to investigate the effect of different combination modes of benevolent and authoritarian leadership on the work outcome of subordinates and its underlying mechanism.
The researchers identified four scenarios by combining the two kinds of leadership, namely, high authority-high benevolence, low authority-low benevolence, high authority-low benevolence, low authority-high benevolence. This approach was based on the level of authoritarian and benevolent leadership. The former two forms of leadership fall under the congruence category, whereas the latter two fall under the incongruence category. By drawing on followership theory, the researchers expected that the active implementation of subordinates was high when leaders were at a high level of authoritarian leadership and benevolent leadership than when at a low level of authoritarian leadership and benevolent leadership. The researchers also found that the active implementation of subordinates was high when the benevolent leadership of leaders exceeded authoritarian leadership rather than when authoritarian leadership exceeded benevolent leadership. Third, the active implementation of subordinates carried the joint effect of benevolent and authority leadership to the job performance of followers.
A multiwave, multiresource survey was used to test the hypotheses. Surveys were given to 204 voluntary subordinates at Time 1. They were required to report their leaders’ benevolent leadership and authoritarian leadership and demographic information. The researchers obtained 183 effective survey responses. After one month, the researchers conducted Time 2 survey, which required leaders to rate the job performance of their subordinates. The subordinates were then required to rate their active implementation. A total of 130 effective survey responses were obtained. The researchers used polynomial regression combined with response surface analysis based on the two-wave data. The results supported the hypotheses.
The findings offered several contributions to literature. First, different combination modes of benevolent and authoritarian leadership have different effects on the work outcome of subordinates. Second, the researchers uncovered the dynamics between authoritarian-benevolent leadership and work outcome of subordinates. These findings can aid Chinese scholars to gain an improved understanding of indigenous ambidextrous leadership. These findings advance the understanding on how authoritarian leadership combined with benevolent leadership affects the performance of followers. The findings also provide further practical insights to practitioners.

Key words: ambidexterity leadership, benevolent leadership, authoritarian leadership, benevolent authority, followership

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