Accelerating Innovation Efficiency through Agile Leadership: The CEO Network Effects in China

Xihui Chen, Kienpin Tee, Victor Chang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Digitalization as a business enabler has speeded and scaled innovation in many firms. As the corporate leader, the CEO facilitates strategic agility and enhances network effects to create value. This study uses innovation efficiency as the proxy of digitalization to examine the contribution of the CEO networks to firm-level innovation efficiency in Chinese listed firms. Using 13,516 firm-year observations in Chinese listed high-tech firms between 2007 and 2017, we apply a frontier analysis approach (e.g., DEA and SFA) and measure innovation efficiency based on the scale ratio of innovation output (i.e., patent counts) and input (R&D investment and R&D personnel). First, we find that innovation is more efficient when CEO has more outside directorships. Second, a significant and positive relationship exists between a well-connected CEO and innovation efficiency when the newly appointed CEO has larger networks than the predecessor. Third, the positive relationship between a well-connected CEO and innovation efficiency disappears when the number of outside directorships is above the yearly median level. This empirical study provides evidence for the network effects of a CEO for improving innovation efficiency. The findings emphasize the contingent value of the CEO's external social capital on agility, especially the multiple directorships in a transitional economy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number121602
JournalTechnological Forecasting and Social Change
Early online date14 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

Funding Information:
Prof Chang's work is supported by VC Research (VCR 0000089).


  • Agile Leadership
  • CEO networks
  • CEO Transition
  • Digitalization
  • Innovation Efficiency
  • Social Capital


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