Adaptive Leadership in the Chinese Context: Can Adaptive Leadership be Applied in China?


Leadership, Management & Business

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



The bulk of research on Chinese leadership has focused on paternalistic leadership, transformational leadership, and leader-member exchange theory (LMX). Given the extent of change in Chinese organizations and society, there is a need to effectively create change. Adaptive leadership has been effectively used in the West as a change leadership framework. However, there is little discussion regarding applying the framework in the context of Chinese culture. This chapter recommends the modifications of the adaptive leadership framework to accommodate the Chinese culture’s emphasis on protecting face and avoiding conflict. Specifically, it argues that leaders should double their efforts to strengthen the holding environment—the environment where difficult issues are tackled—by creating cultural islands. Additionally, the concepts of Wu Wei, guanxi, and Yin-Yang can be used to facilitate the use of the adaptive leadership framework.


Published as a chapter of Rasmussen, H.T. (2021). Adaptive Leadership in a Global Economy: Perspectives for Application and Scholarship (M. Raei, Ed.) (1st ed.). Routledge. https://doi-org.antioch.idm.oclc.org/10.4324/9781003099109