Toward a theory of meta-paradoxical leadership

Craig L. Pearce, Christina L. Wassenaar, Yair Berson, Rivka Tuval-Mashiach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Organizations are rife with paradoxes, yet we know very little about how leaders simultaneously handle multiple paradoxes. To address this question, we conducted a qualitative thematic analysis of 78 formal interviews conducted over a period of 13 months with leaders in a high-growth retail organization. We supplemented this primary data with review of records from meetings, email communications and company documents. We identified four themes involving important aspects of leadership including, formal, shared, situational, and paradoxical leadership. Based on these themes, we recognized an overarching theme concerning a higher-level paradox, or a meta-paradox, whereby leaders consider simultaneously using either formal or shared leadership (situational leadership) and the integration of these styles (paradoxical leadership) over time. We argue that by being situationally conscious, paradoxical leaders become more effective in dealing with an organizational paradox associated with the simultaneous management of short- and long-term goals, and thereby engage in meta-paradoxical leadership. We suggest paradoxical/situational mindsets as antecedents of meta-paradoxical leadership and discuss the implications of our findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-41
Number of pages11
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
StatePublished - Nov 2019


  • Formal leadership
  • Meta-paradoxical leadership
  • Nested paradoxes
  • Paradox
  • Paradoxical leadership
  • Shared leadership
  • Situational leadership

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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