Explaining the Interaction Between Leader Ambidextrous Behavior, Employee Ambidexterity, and Organizational Ambidexterity

Explaining the Interaction Between Leader Ambidextrous Behavior, Employee Ambidexterity, and Organizational Ambidexterity

Melis Attar (Selçuk University, Turkey) and Serap Kalfaoğlu (Selçuk University, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1108-4.ch010


The aim of the study is to examine the relationships between ambidextrous leadership behaviors (i.e., task-oriented, relation-oriented, change-oriented, and external) in the context of leader behavior level and employee ambidextrous performance (i.e., exploitation and exploration) in the context of individual employee level by suggesting that the interaction of these two may result in organizational ambidexterity. This study aims to contribute to the immature ambidexterity literature by developing some propositions based on the previous ambidexterity researches related to ambidexterity of leaders, employees, and entire organizations. Taking into account ambidextrous leadership theory, it is proposed that while the leaders' task-oriented and relation-oriented behaviors are positively related to the employees' exploitation behaviors, the leaders' change-oriented and external behaviors are positively related to the employees' exploration behaviors. It is recommended for further studies to investigate the possible propositions with quantitative research designs.
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Leadership is one of the most important prophets that will enable organizations to identify and implement strategies that make sense for the future and to benefit from existing competencies and to differentiate organizations in this context. Leadership has been recognized as one of the most effective predictors of employee innovation, organizational development, and learning (Alghamdi, 2018). From this perspective, there are changes in various individual and organizational outputs with the leaders who constitute a key factor in the qualification, differentiation and final success of the business and their styles and behaviors according to their characteristics. Leadership behaviors that help organizations to make themselves ambidextrous can also be categorized mainly as task-oriented, relationship-oriented, change-oriented, and external behaviors (Yukl, 2012).

Literature review depicts that there has been an intense interest in organizational ambidexterity theory and respective researches in this particular area especially from 2000's onwards. At first sight, the main assertion thereby is the necessity to operate by interacting organizations' capacities simultaneously on exploiting existing competencies and developing exploratory research on new competencies and opportunities for long-term life and success (Alghamdi, 2018:1). In a constantly changing and dynamic environment, organizations struggle to fit in the interests of all stakeholder groups they are in for survival. Change adaptation strategies are vital in terms of transforming opportunities by observing the fluctuations in the market, the environmental threats and other stakeholders in the competition with content and methods. Organizational theory (relying on the proven facts of this fieldwork) claims that successful organizations in dynamic environments are already harmonious and effective while being adaptable to future changes; thus ambidextrous (Cao et al., 2009). In this direction, overcoming all structural, contextual, or behavioral challenges will be possible within the organizations which can both improve their current positions and adapt to change (Duncan, 1976), along with ambidextrous leaders who represent these organizations (Rosing et. al., 2011) and with ambidextrous human resources whose strategies are effective in the functional context (Alghamdi, 2018).

In particular, the conceptual examination of organizational ambidexterity and the curiosity of accessing ambidexterity capacity are still a research topic of growing interest (Yu et al., 2017: 2). When theoretical foundations of the concept are examined, it can be observed that the factors leading to the dimension of ambidexterity of an organization during the studies carried out on a day-to-day basis are mainly delineated under three headings. The structural-based factor is that the establishment of autonomous and structurally separated sub-units in relation to different people, structures and processes will benefit organizational ambidexterity (synchronicity) (Raisch and Birkinshaw, 2008; O'Reilly and Tushman, 2004). The contextual/content-based factor advocates the view that ambidexterity can be achieved by establishing a set of processes or systems that encourage individuals to make their own decisions about how they divide their time between conformable and adaptable contradictory requests (Gibson and Birkinshaw, 2004: 210). It must be noted that both of these dimensions take into account organizational factors (e.g., organizational structure, culture) to facilitate synchronicity (Agostini et al., 2016). Finally, the third factor of leadership-oriented, in other words, the behavioral ambidexterity perspective claims that managers/entrepreneurs/leaders play an important role in the development of organizational ambidexterity, and the characteristics of managers/entrepreneurs/leaders have important influences on organizational ambidexterity (Yu et al., 2017: 3). In this context, ambidexterity’s thoroughly impact on organization is of great importance in each of organizational, team and individual level. It has been also emphasized that ambidexterity requires employees to internalize and to implement strategies in order to exploit and explore in equal amounts and at the same time. At the individual level, ambidexterity is not only a possible level that can compensate for both exploration and exploitation but it is also necessary to combine synergy and create interaction between discovery and exploitation activities at a higher organizational level (Alghamdi, 2018: 2).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Leadership: A qualification that pursues of ideals, inspires people, shows the right path to them, and teaches what they need to do to help them succeed.

Upper Echelon Theory: The theory proposed by Donald C. Hambrick and P. Mason in 1984 and investigates the effects of demographic characteristics of the people in the senior management level of organizations on organizational results.

Ambidexterity: A level of dexterity required to gain power.

Organizational Theory: A research theory composed of a set of propositions developed to explain how organizations construct and manage their relationship with various environmental factors while maintaining their activities.

Exploitation: A strategy that ensures benefits from the current situation.

Exploration: A strategy to conduct in-depth research to reveal a new truth.

Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) Theory: The theory proposed by Dansereau, Graen, and Haga in 1975 and formerly called Vertical Dyad Linkage Model. It examines the relationship between the leadership process and results of the process. The LMX theory also suggests that the impression of the leader is equivalent to comments and evaluations to be made. A good leader means a good organization, a good working group and ultimately organizational success.

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