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The ambidextrous and differential effects of directive versus empowering leadership: a study from project context

Junwei Zheng (Department of Construction Management, Kunming University of Science and Technology , Kunming, China)
Xueqin Gou (Department of Construction Management, Kunming University of Science and Technology , Kunming, China)
Guangdong Wu ( School of Public Policy and Administration , Chongqing University , Chongqing, China)
Xianbo Zhao ( School of Engineering and Technology , Central Queensland University , Sydney, Australia)
Hongyang Li ( Business School , Hohai University , Nanjing, China)
Bingsheng Liu ( School of Public Policy and Administration , Chongqing University , Chongqing, China)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 4 February 2021

Issue publication date: 20 April 2021

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648

Abstract

Purpose

This study investigated the differential effects of empowering leadership and directive leadership in projects. Moreover, how the complex interplay between empowering and directive leadership styles influences both leader–member exchange and project performance was also explored.

Design/methodology/approach

Polynomial regression analysis and response surface modeling were applied to analyze 161 matched data collected from project members and managers worked in different projects located in China.

Findings

Four leadership styles were identified, i.e. ambidextrous, delegating, directive and laissez-faire styles. These may be combined with empowering and directive leadership. With regard to (in)congruence, leader–member exchange and project performance improved with ambidextrous style as a form of high–high congruence between empowering and directive leadership compared with laissez-faire style (i.e. low–low congruence). Results were better when a delegating style was combined with empowering leadership at a high level compared with the combination of directive style as directive leadership at a high level. Leader–member exchange was identified to exert a mediating role of the (in)congruence on project performance.

Originality/value

This study confirmed the contingent viewpoint of leadership by identifying distinct leadership styles applied in projects. Furthermore, the co-existence of empowering leadership and directive leadership was examined, and the underlying mechanism between the (in)congruence of empowering and directive leadership and project performance was identified.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the editors and anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and suggestions on this paper. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant no. 71701083, 71761021, 71722004 and 71972018), and Yunnan Province Basic Research Planning Project (Grant no. 2019FB084).Conflict of interest: The authors have declared that no conflict of interest exists.

Citation

Zheng, J., Gou, X., Wu, G., Zhao, X., Li, H. and Liu, B. (2021), "The ambidextrous and differential effects of directive versus empowering leadership: a study from project context", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 42 No. 3, pp. 348-369. https://doi.org/10.1108/LODJ-12-2019-0509

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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