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Ambidextrous leadership and team innovation

Hannes Zacher (School of Psychology, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)
Kathrin Rosing (Institute of Strategic Personnel Management and Institute of Corporate Development, Leuphana University, Lüneburg, Germany)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 2 March 2015




The purpose of this paper is to report the first empirical test of the recently proposed ambidexterity theory of leadership for innovation (Rosing et al., 2011). This theory proposes that the interaction between two complementary leadership behaviors – opening and closing – predicts team innovation, such that team innovation is highest when both opening and closing leadership behaviors are high.


Multi-source survey data came from 33 team leaders of architectural and interior design firms and 90 of their employees.


Results supported the interaction hypothesis, even after controlling for leaders’ transformational leadership behavior and general team success.

Research limitations/implications

The relatively small sample size and the cross-sectional design are potential limitations of the study. The findings provide initial support for the central hypothesis of the ambidexterity theory of leadership for innovation.

Practical implications

The results suggest that organizations could train team leaders’ ambidextrous leadership behaviors to increase team innovation.

Social implications

Identifying ways to facilitate organizational innovation is important, as it contributes to employment and company growth as well as individual and societal well-being.


This multi-source study contributes to the literatures on leadership and innovation in organizations by showing that ambidextrous leadership behaviors predict team innovation above and beyond transformational leadership behavior.



This research was supported by an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DE120100359) awarded to the first author. The authors thank Megan Bissing-Olson, Luc Bourgeois, and Alexandra Walsh for helping with data collection.


Zacher, H. and Rosing, K. (2015), "Ambidextrous leadership and team innovation", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 36 No. 1, pp. 54-68.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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