The Influence of CEO Ambidextrous Leadership on Firm Operational and Innovative Performance: Empirical Research on Chinese Enterprises

Teo Tong Kooi, Fordham University


Increase in environmental complexity has led to the emergence of contradictions in the approach to corporate management. Therefore, organizations have to strategize how to manage contradictions for sustainable development. CEOs are required to simultaneously optimize existing business and to inspire the organization to search for new growth areas and innovative business opportunities, to integrate short- term and long-term plans, and equally important is to chart a vision with effective execution. Many corporate failures have verified that single leadership style or management approach can no longer meet nor sustain the challenges of organization development and growth. Hence, ambidexterity has become an important challenge for corporate CEOs. Ambidextrous leadership is a relatively new leadership style with an effective combination of organizational ambidexterity theory and leadership styles. Rosing et al. (2011) define that ambidextrous leadership as leaders’ who demonstrate the paradoxical thinking logic of “both-and” rather than “either” with the ability to foster both explorative and exploitative behaviors in followers by increasing or reducing variances in their behavior and flexibly switching between those behavior. Jansen et al. (2009) link transformational leadership to exploratory innovation and transactional leadership to exploitative innovation respectively. To-date, researches have shown that ambidextrous leadership has overcome challenges and complexities in the dynamic environment and has delivered sustainable organizational performance. There are increasingly interests from both corporate practitioners and academicians on the subject of organizational ambidexterity. The author’s vast experiences in managing multiple businesses also convinced him that ambidextrous leadership is crucial to the present and future performance of an organization. The author is conversant in both Chinese and English. For this research, he has covered a large number of literatures in Chinese and English. Recent Chinese articles on organizational ambidexterity theory reflects increasing trend and exceptional interests in the Chinese corporate circles as well as the academic world. The existing research on ambidextrous leadership verifies that transactional and transformational leaderships are of difference leadership behavior and style that effectively complement each other. However, from the review of Chinese and English literature on ambidextrous leadership, the following deficiencies are noticed. First, existing research on ambidextrous leadership is focused mainly at the individual or team level, hence, whether ambidextrous leadership is suitable for the CEO requires further research. Second, past researches are mostly focused on the impact of ambidextrous leadership on innovation. There are few studies examining whether ambidextrous leadership has influence on organizational efficiency, especially whether ambidextrous CEO can simultaneously affect both innovative performance and operational performance of an organization. Third, the mediating role of CEO ambidextrous leadership which influences organizational performance is uncertain. The concept of dynamic capability is a critical factor in strategic management, and whether strategic flexibility as a dynamic capability factor can be influenced by CEO ambidextrous leadership behavior remains to be seen. Fourth, CEO is the driving force of Top Management Team (TMT) and it is uncertain whether the attitude of TMT would affect CEO’s ambidextrous leadership behavior and effectiveness. Based on the theoretical framework of leader identification and strategic flexibility, this research is focused on the influence mechanism and boundary conditions of CEO ambidextrous leadership on firm performance which also covers the mediating role of strategic flexibility and the moderating role of leader identification. The survey method is by means of questionnaires; 67 questionnaires are collected from CEOs and 326 from their TMTs respectively. Through regression analysis and path analysis, it is confirmed that CEO meta-leadership has positive influence on organizational innovative performance and operational performance. Strategic flexibility has a positive influence on organization operational performance and innovative performance. Strategic flexibility mediates the relationship between CEO ambidextrous leadership and innovative performance. However, this research also verifies that leader identification has a negative moderating effect on the relationship between CEO ambidextrous leadership and strategic flexibility. The theoretical significance of this research covers the followings: (1) Expanding the research on CEO ambidextrous leadership. Past studies centered on the influence of ambidextrous leaders at different levels, such as individuals, teams or groups, hence, neglected the effect of ambidextrous leadership behavior at the organizational level. (2) It is confirmed that ambidextrous leadership not only promotes organizational innovation but also brings efficiency. Ambidextrous CEOs encompass contradictory and complementary leadership styles. The combination of leadership styles is conducive to develop deeper understanding between the contradictory features and encourage interconnectivity between contradictory factors. All these factors ultimately contribute to innovation and efficiency. (3) To enhance the factors that influence the formation of strategic flexibility. The research verifies that ambidextrous CEO leadership is a factor that influences the formation of organizational strategic flexibility.

Subject Area

Management|Entrepreneurship|Asian Studies|Business administration|Asian literature|Labor relations|Organizational behavior

Recommended Citation

Tong Kooi, Teo, "The Influence of CEO Ambidextrous Leadership on Firm Operational and Innovative Performance: Empirical Research on Chinese Enterprises" (2020). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28148145.