Ambidextrous Leadership in Innovation : A multiple case study of innovation leaders on the alignment of opening and closing leader behaviors

University essay from Linköpings universitet/Företagsekonomi; Linköpings universitet/Filosofiska fakulteten

Abstract: The relatively new concept of ambidextrous leadership in innovation with the opposing yet complementary opening and closing leader behaviors has been proven to be positively related to fostering explorative and exploitative behaviors respectively among subordinates. The initiators of this concept propose that leaders in innovation need a ‘temporal flexibility to switch’ between opening and closing leader behaviors, which implies a sequential alignment of these behaviors. This proposition has yet remained theoretically and empirically unexplored and is initially questioned in this thesis with respect to related theoretical concepts. Therefore, this thesis aims to explain how innovation leaders align the recently defined opening and closing leader behaviors throughout the innovation process. By following a qualitative and inductive research approach, a multiple case study of five innovation leaders in German manufacturing companies was conducted. The data were collected through in-depth semi-structured interviews. The empirical data reveal that the initiators’ proposition of a sequential alignment is not sufficient to explain the complex alignment of opening and closing leader behaviors. Accordingly, a model which illustrates a predominantly simultaneous alignment of the two leader behaviors was developed. However, this model also considers that urgent situations or specific project phases and times of the year require innovation leaders to sequentially demonstrate one behavior at a time.

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