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Understanding managerial ambidexterity: a people–situation interaction approach

Ruifang Wang (Maynooth University School of Business, Maynooth, Ireland)
Patrick Gibbons (UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, Dublin, Ireland)

Journal of Strategy and Management

ISSN: 1755-425X

Article publication date: 29 October 2020

Issue publication date: 3 May 2021




It is increasingly recognised that managers play a central role in organisational ambidexterity. While some scholars have recently begun to explain the nature and antecedents of ambidextrous behaviour among managers, much remains to be learned about the micro-foundations of this behaviour. Adopting a people–situation interaction approach, this paper investigates the antecedents to managerial ambidexterity from both situational and individual difference considerations.


This study adopts a quantitative approach using a combination of survey and archival data from 305 managers.


The results indicate that learning goal orientation is positively related with managerial ambidexterity, whereas there is no significant relationship between functional experience breadth and managerial ambidexterity. In testing moderation effects, discretionary slack is found to positively moderate the association between learning goal orientation and ambidexterity and between functional experiences and ambidexterity.

Practical implications

This paper provides suggestions on employees selection and training, along with organisational support, in enacting managerial ambidexterity.


Guided by individual difference theory, this paper adds value to one’s understanding of the antecedents to managerial ambidexterity. It contributes to the ambidexterity literature from the micro-foundation perspective.



The authors thank the editor Nicholas O'Regan and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable feedback and suggestions that helped shape this article throughout the review process.


Wang, R. and Gibbons, P. (2021), "Understanding managerial ambidexterity: a people–situation interaction approach", Journal of Strategy and Management, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 170-186.



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