Developmental or exploitative? How Chinese leaders integrate authoritarianism and benevolence to cultivate subordinates

An-Chih Andrew Wang (First Author)

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal


I examine the phenomenon of Chinese-style developmental leadership—leader behaviors that prioritize subordinates’ development over the achievement of collective goals. Using multiple qualitative data sources, I find that Chinese-style developmental leadership integrates authoritarianism and benevolence, two seemingly paradoxical leadership approaches. Specifically, when Chinese leaders consider their subordinates’ development their core duty and make it their priority, they: (1) emphasize discipline by instantly correcting mistakes and granting a second chance in the condition of absolute obedience; (2) take the initiative to remove obstacles that prevent subordinates from cultivation, of which subordinates may not be aware; (3) insist on the pursuit of excellence in the face of challenges to allow subordinates to discover their full potential; and (4) engage in role modeling to urge subordinates to comply with their instructions as a means of dealing with crises. Such behaviors in turn enhance subordinates’ professional capabilities, interpersonal insight, and self-transcendence. I further contrast developmental leaders with exploitative ones, who alternate authoritarianism and “pseudo-benevolence” in the face of conflicts of interest, and conclude with a theoretical model of how Chinese leaders’ integration of authoritarianism and benevolence approaches is possible and an effective form of developmental leadership.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-313
JournalAcademy of Management Discoveries
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Leader Behavior
  • Leadership
  • Leadership Processes
  • Leadership Theories

Indexed by

  • ABDC-A
  • SCIE


Dive into the research topics of 'Developmental or exploitative? How Chinese leaders integrate authoritarianism and benevolence to cultivate subordinates'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this