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Benefitting or suffering from a paradoxical leader? A self-regulation perspective

Fürstenberg, Nils, Booth, Jonathan E. ORCID: 0000-0002-8563-4613 and Alfes, Kerstin (2023) Benefitting or suffering from a paradoxical leader? A self-regulation perspective. Human Relations. ISSN 0018-7267

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Identification Number: 10.1177/00187267231199644


Why do followers’ reactions to perceived paradoxical leader behavior (PLB) differ? To answer this question, we draw from self-regulation theory and argue that making sense of a paradoxical leader’s seemingly contradictory behavior can pose a challenge for followers and requires specific cognitive traits and abilities that enable them to navigate such complex and dynamic environments. We propose that followers who lack these cognitive traits and related abilities find it more difficult to make sense of and navigate their paradoxical leader’s behavior, thereby perceiving them as behaviorally unpredictable. This, in turn, impairs followers’ self-regulation when working with such leaders, and leads to lower well-being. Conversely, followers endowed with appropriate cognitive traits can make sense of PLB and thrive in these environments. To test our propositions, we conducted two multi-wave field studies. In Study 1, we examine the role of followers’ trait cognitive flexibility in interpreting PLB; whereas Study 2 explores the role of followers’ trait self-regulation. The findings from these studies support our hypotheses, with an important implication: the efficacy of PLB may not only solely depend on a leader’s ability to enact these behaviors but also on their followers’ ability to interpret and make sense of them.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2023 The Author(s)
Divisions: Management
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
H Social Sciences
Date Deposited: 05 Oct 2023 14:15
Last Modified: 02 Jun 2024 18:12

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