A Paradox Rarely Comes Alone: A Quantitative Approach to Investigating Knotted Leadership Paradoxes in SMEs

Thomas Duus Henriksen*, Rikke Kristine Nielsen, Signe Vikkelsø, Frans Bévort, Mette Mogensen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This article uses a paradox knotting perspective to study key leadership challenges among Danish manufacturing and crafting SMEs. As part of an action-learning development programme, 55 middle managers from 11 companies were asked to rate the topicality of 10 leadership paradoxes. Using exploratory factor analysis, three clusters of knotted paradoxes were identified concerning the management of 1) managing organisational flexibility, 2) balancing engagement and control, and 3) dealing with dispersion. Each identified knot consists of two paradoxes and shows how managers involved in one element of a knotted paradox are also likely to be involved in the tensions of the other.

The article contributes to a better understanding of the complexity and interrelatedness of select management paradoxes by demonstrating that paradoxes appear knotted in practice. Furthermore, the empirical and quantitative approach to studying paradoxes and their interrelatedness serves as an important methodological contribution to a field characterised by a high reliance on indirect, qualitative studies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101135
JournalScandinavian Journal of Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Paradox leadership
  • Organizational paradox
  • Ledelsesparadokser
  • Paradoxes of management
  • Knotted paradox


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  • Paradox Practice Track: Research-Practice Panel

    Rikke Kristine Nielsen (Panel member), Danielle Bjerre Lyndgaard (Panel member), Garima Sharma (Moderator), Michael Pingel Hansen (Panel member), Natalie Slawinski (Panel member) & Angela Greco (Moderator)

    18 Mar 2022

    Activity: Talks and presentationsTalks and presentations in private or public companies


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