In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Paternalistic Leadership

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Resources
  • Journals
  • Cross-Cultural Comparative Studies

Management Paternalistic Leadership
Ekin K. Pellegrini
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 April 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 April 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0162


Paternalistic leadership (PL) remains the leading indigenous leadership research area with increasing interest in the past three decades, and an exponential growth of research productivity in the last ten years. Paternalism in the context of leadership reflects a hierarchical relationship and is based on the assumption of power inequality. The current body of research on PL is fragmented, with research emerging from an array of different cultural contexts. While cross-cultural research interest provides an inclusive cultural base for theoretical development, it has also led to a lack of conceptual clarity, insufficient delineation of research paradigms, and inconsistent results. In the extant PL literature, two broad conceptualizations can be identified. First, there is theoretical and empirical research disseminating from Turkey, which defines PL as a hierarchical relationship in which the leader guides employees in their professional and personal lives, in a manner resembling a parent, and in return expects loyalty and deference. This definition refers to PL as a construct comprised of benevolent and authoritative leadership, common in the Middle East. Second, there is a more authoritarian definition emerging from China which suggests a configural approach and refers to PL as a combination of authoritarian, benevolent, and moral leadership. Given these two established and diverse conceptualizations, the definition of PL depends, in part, on one’s cultural context and theoretical perspective.

General Overviews

Because such a large proportion of research on paternalistic leadership (PL) originates from different countries, leadership scholars interested in studying the topic would be wise to reference review articles that provide an overview of previous works. For a comprehensive review, Pellegrini and Scandura 2008 is an excellent start. Then move to Farh, et al. 2008; the authors discuss previous research in the Chinese context. Taken together, these two sources provide a well-rounded overview of the historical state and previous research on PL. However, these two reviews were written a decade ago, and the field is in need of a more recent, thorough review that highlights strengths and weaknesses and identifies new areas for future research.

  • Farh, J. L., J. Liang, L. F. Chou, and B. S. Cheng. “Paternalistic Leadership in Chinese Organizations: Research Progress and Future Research Directions.” In Leadership and Management in China: Philosophies, Theories & Practices. Edited by C. C. Chen, and Y. T. Lee, 171–205. London: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511753763.008

    Reviews the body of research on PL from a variety of organizational settings in Taiwan and mainland China, including studies published in Chinese books and journals. Offers an integrative review and introduces promising areas for future research. Also cited under Reference Resources.

  • Pellegrini, E. K., and T. A. Scandura. “Paternalistic Leadership: A Review and Agenda for Future Research.” Journal of Management 34 (2008): 566–593.

    DOI: 10.1177/0149206308316063

    Reviews published research across all socio-cultural contexts and discusses various definitions of PL. Offers an agenda for future theoretical and empirical research on PL.

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