The role of Yin-Yang leadership and cosmopolitan followership in fostering employee commitment in China: A paradox perspective

Publication Date

January 2018

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Publication Title

Cross Cultural & Strategic Management







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Purpose: Utilizing a paradox perspective, the purpose of this paper is to investigate the leadership-followership dynamic in foreign firms in China, specifically, the extent to which Yin-Yang leadership behaviors of Japanese expatriates and cosmopolitanism of Chinese employees influence employee commitment. Design/methodology/approach: Data were collected through an online survey of Chinese employees who directly report to a Japanese supervisor in a Japanese subsidiary in China. Based on responses from 97 Chinese employees in three Japanese subsidiaries in China, the authors test if their cosmopolitan orientation and perceived Yin-Yang leadership behaviors of Japanese supervisors are related to employee commitment. Findings: Yin-Yang leadership and cosmopolitan followership have a positive effect on employee commitment. Further, cosmopolitanism moderates the link between Yin-Yang leadership and employee commitment such that the follower’s cosmopolitanism compensates for lower levels of Yin-Yang leadership, especially a relative lack of Yin leadership behaviors. Research limitations/implications: Results suggest that Yin-Yang leadership and cosmopolitan followership work together as a two-way street of cultural adaptability to build employee commitment, highlighting the interplay between leadership and followership in multinational enterprises. Future research should attempt to further refine the Yin-Yang leadership construct, and to gain a larger sample representing multiple expatriate nationalities to corroborate the relationships found in this study. Originality/value: The study applies a context-based approach to developing culturally relevant leadership, through analyzing both the emic and etic concepts of culture in China. In doing so, the authors extend the application of paradox theories to the cross-cultural leadership literature utilizing the Yin-Yang principle, which is particularly relevant in societal contexts where rapid and dramatic change brings to the fore competing values, needs and employee preferences.


China, Cosmopolitanism, Cross-cultural leadership, Employee commitment, Japan, Paradox, Yin-Yang

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