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Bridge leadership: a case study of leadership in a bridging organization

Ronald S. McMullen (Quinnipiac University, Hamden, Connecticut, USA)
Henry Adobor (Quinnipiac University, Hamden, Connecticut, USA)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 28 September 2011




The purpose of this research is to examine leadership in an intermediary organization whose mission is to facilitate collaboration between large corporations and their smaller suppliers, a bridging organization.


A qualitative approach using a single case revelatory method was adopted. Data were collected from a bridge leader as well as 20 executives of companies involved in the collaboration.


The analysis revealed that the successful bridge leader tended: to build personal relations and goodwill as a way of creating personal obligations on the part of the stakeholders he led; championed the cause of the stakeholders and made their mission his/her own; created opportunities for individual and collective goal achievement; relied on symbolic behavior and ceremonies to reify the bridge mission; and engaged in frequent communication with a liberal use of humor and playfulness to make goals embraceable by the stakeholders in the collaboration.

Research limitations/implications

This is a single case study and that limits the generalization of these findings. However, the findings provide some preliminary evidence to show that a lack of control of resources need not be a reason for leader non‐performance.

Practical implications

A bridge leader may substitute other influence strategies to compensate for the lack of direct positional power.


This study is one of the few that explicitly examines leadership in bridging organizations. The paper's understanding of this phenomenon is important because of the importance of bridging organizations to business and social innovation.



McMullen, R.S. and Adobor, H. (2011), "Bridge leadership: a case study of leadership in a bridging organization", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 32 No. 7, pp. 715-735.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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