Contorted leadership in Chinese hierarchically oriented context: How social governance influences organizational leaders

Lin Zhang, Xiaojun Zhang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The aim of this research is to explore the behavioral model of Chinese organizational leaders acquiring resources for the development of their organizations under the influence of hierarchically oriented social governance. Design/methodology/approach – The paper compares the differences between Western and Chinese contexts and conducts a grounded multi-case study to explore leadership behavioral model in the Chinese context. Findings – First, the Chinese social governance structure is hierarchically oriented, whereas the Western social governance structure is market oriented. Second, this unique inconformity found in the Chinese organizational leaders as contorted leadership, which refers to the inconsistency between leaders’ cognition and their behavior when acquiring resources for the development of their organizations, is defined. Third, the conflict between leaders’ cognition and behaviors is caused by the social governance mechanism within which leaders are embedded. Research limitations/implications – The authors have just made a first step to understand contorted leadership in the Chinese context, further researches should pay more attention to exploring the origins, functions and impacts of leaders’ contorted behaviors. Originality/value – First, leadership is linked with social governance by emphasizing on the core role of social governance in allocating the resources which organizational leaders scramble for. Second, a new kind of leadership –contorted leadership – in the Chinese context that emphasizes on the contradiction between leaders’ cognition and behavior, which deepens the understanding of leadership contextualization, is identified.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)502-526
Number of pages25
JournalChinese Management Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2014


  • Indigenous management
  • Leaders’ contorted behaviors
  • Resource acquiring
  • Resource allocation
  • Social governance

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