What Do We (Not) Know About Paradoxical Leadership

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Zivkovic, D., & Langenbacher, M. (2023). What Do We (Not) Know About Paradoxical Leadership. Presented at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Boston.


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Following the emergence of paradox theory as a growing research stream, studies on paradoxical leadership (PL) have gained increasing momentum in recent years. However, to date, there is no literature review that summarizes the partly fragmented and disconnected research streams and cumulates empirical findings. We introduce a novel framework to provide the first systematic review of the PL literature. This framework comprises individual and organizational level antecedents and outcomes as well as boundary conditions that play a major role in PL research. Further, we identify four types of PL that differ with regard to the level where paradoxes are held (i.e., individual versus collective) and the focus of paradox (i.e., integration versus differentiation). Particularly, we distinguish between (1) an individual integration perspective in which individual leaders manage paradoxical tensions by integrating paradoxical behaviors, (2) a collective integration perspective which focuses on group processes and decision making without taking into account follower’s needs or demands, (3) an individual differentiation perspective that zeroes in on how individual leaders include followers’ perspective when managing paradoxical tensions, and, (4) a collective differentiation perspective that mainly focuses on how a collective of senior leaders take action in order to navigate paradoxical tensions. Based on our PL categorizations, we contribute to a more detailed and holisitic understanding of what PL is, identify research gaps and propose future research opportunities for each of our categorizations.



  • Liechtenstein Business School
  • Strategic Management

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