Aesthetic leadership in Chinese business

Haina Zhang, Malcolm H. Cone, André M. Everett, Graham Elkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Confucian ethics play a pivotal role in guiding Chinese thinking and behaviour. Aesthetic leadership is emerging as a promising paradigm in leadership studies. This study investigates the practice of aesthetic leadership in Chinese organizations on the basis of Chinese philosophical foundations. We adopt a process perspective to access the aesthetic constellation of meanings present in the Chinese understanding of leadership, linking normative Confucian values to a pragmatic value rational world view, that rests on an ontology of vaguely defined norms that are malleable to different cultural contexts. Value rational pragmatism is explored in order to develop a deeper understanding of normative aesthetic leadership in China and to contrast it to instrumental aesthetic leadership. We empirically demonstrate the contextual specificity of aesthetic leadership in eight Chinese private- and state-owned enterprises (POEs and SOEs) through qualitative case studies. The findings provide a deeper insight into Chinese aesthetic leadership by proposing a dynamic leadership approach, from both ethical and instrumental perspectives, in the Chinese context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-491
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


  • aesthetic leadership
  • Confucian ethics
  • pragmatism
  • instrumentalism
  • China


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