Ambidextrous leadership as catalyst for innovation, ambidexterity in established organisations : a sequential explanatory mixed-method study

Öz, Gülcihan Selvi (2021) Ambidextrous leadership as catalyst for innovation, ambidexterity in established organisations : a sequential explanatory mixed-method study. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This doctoral thesis investigates the applicability of ambidextrous leadership theory for achieving innovation ambidexterity in established organisations. The research is conducted in a 150-year-old successful technical service provider that mainly offers inspection and testing services. An evidence-based approach for the overall research frame is adopted as the organisation is increasingly confronted with the need for higher levels of ambidexterity due to changes in its market environment, such as increasing levels of digitisation. A conceptual "ambidextrous leadership" model is developed based on a systematic literature review. The model is then tested in the case study company through a sequential explanatory mixed research process. The sequential explanatory design incorporates quantitative and qualitative approaches in two consecutive phases. In the quantitative study, structural equation modelling through moderated mediation is applied. Findings from the survey with 318 upper and middle managers (study II) confirm that leaders play a crucial role in the promotion of innovation ambidexterity. Top management risk propensity alone is not found to be sufficient to achieve innovation ambidexterity. Findings from the study suggest that innovation ambidexterity is dependent on the right leadership behaviour. The subsequent qualitative study, consisting of 9 semi-structured leader interviews and a focus group discussion with eight digital experts from the company, aim at getting a deeper understanding of the quantitative study results and expand on the "how" and "why" of findings. The exploratory analysis of data suggests that leaders should possess duality competencies to be able to act ambidextrously. The researcher identifies four groups of competencies: agility, adaptability, articulacy and authenticity. On the other hand, findings suggest that an ambidexterity friendly organisational context, is characterised above all by the fact that it has a learning culture. The identified characteristics of a learning culture are high levels of experimentation and rewarding, error-tolerance and trust as well as collaboration and knowledge sharing. The top management team particularly is identified as a steering wheel for promoting such a learning culture. This thesis makes several important contributions. First, the findings add to the research area of micro-level research of ambidextrous leadership theory by finding support for the newly developed ambidextrous leadership theory as one of a few studies so far that empirically investigate and support it. The study further extends current ambidextrous leadership theory by proposing a model of duality competencies as individual enablers for ambidextrous leadership bahviour. Second, this dissertation contributes to the research area of ambidextrous leadership from the underdeveloped multi-level perspective by linking the currently dominant top management level perspective to the underrepresented lower management levels by also reavling an important interdependency. Additionally it expands previous understandings on how organisational context, particularly learning culture, is steered by top management and influences individual leader actions on lower management levels. Third, the findings of the dissertation contribute to the research area of ambidextrous leadership research for the underrepresented academic field of established organisations.

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