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Multilevel analyses of the relationship amongst leadership, employee creativity and team innovation

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posted on 31.01.2017, 05:23 authored by Yoshida, Diah Tuhfat
Prior creativity studies have demonstrated the key role of leadership in fostering employee creativity. However, two significant questions remain incompletely understood. Firstly, leadership researchers (such as Liden, Wayne, Zhao, & Henderson, 2008; Sendjaya, Sarros, & Santora, 2008; van Dierendonck, 2011; Walumbwa, Hartnell, & Oke, 2010) have illustrated the importance of leadership behaviors that have a strong emphasis on societal benefits, such as follower empowerment, ethical or moral values. To date, little research has examined whether such leadership behaviors also enhance employee creativity. The only study that has been conducted to examine that relationship is reported by Neubert, Kacmar, Carlson, Chonko and Roberts (2008). Nevertheless, single-source data as theirs possess risks of common method variance and one-level analysis is inadequate because leadership is hierarchical by its nature. It is therefore important to examine such a relationship using multi-source data and multi-level analysis to understand the process by which leaders generate outcomes not only from the individuals but also from the collective. The second omission is that we know little about whether these behaviors also apply in different indigenous contexts. This in itself has been labeled an urgent priority by influential scholars (e.g., Avolio, Walumbwa, & Weber, 2009; Gardner, Lowe, Moss, Mahoney, & Cogliser, 2010) and academic bodies (e.g., 2011 Academy of Management Annual Meeting Theme). In addition, we know very little about leadership models, such as paternalistic leadership, that are ubiquitous across other cultural value systems, such as the Asia Pacific region, the Middle East and Latin America, let alone their potential in fostering employee creativity. Thus far, a study reported by Wang and Cheng (2010) is the first and only one of its kind. In view of that, there is an equally reasonable argument that paternalistic leadership provides a foundation for creativity; therefore it would be interesting to examine its processes in fostering it. The purpose of these studies is to develop and examine two multi-level relationships between servant and paternalistic leadership and employee creativity in Eastern contexts. The first study examines the process by which servant leaders influence employee creativity and team innovation simultaneously and the conditions under which the effect of such leadership is strongest. The second study examines the positive role of paternalistic leadership in employee creativity and the conditions where its effect is the most positive. Self-concept and team climate research underpin these studies. To test the hypotheses, 154 matched teams, comprised of 154 team leaders and 425 team members from 61 firms in Indonesia and China, were obtained. These studies offer at least three contributions to the literature and to leaders or managers in practice. First, these studies provide notable insights into the leadership practices in Eastern contexts because of their uniqueness: (1) they are cross-national studies involving Indonesia and China as exemplars from these contexts; and (2) they are also controlled for cultural values, such as vertical collectivism, to take into account potential cross-cultural variation in employees’ values. Second, by integrating self-concept and team climate research, the processes by which each leadership approach positively influences employee creativity are identified and understood. In addition, the conditions under which each leadership approach influences employee creativity the strongest are also identified. In the case of servant leadership, for example, it is the team climate signposts support for innovation that plays the key role to boost its effect on employee creativity. But for paternalistic leadership, regardless of the conditions of employees’ competence, such effects are still positive. These are probably the most significant contributions of these studies to the literature. From leaders’ or managers’ points of view, these studies show that it is important to develop trusting personal and team relationships between the leader and his or her followers and between the leader and the team he or she leads. When such relationships are stronger, the leader is more likely to channel these to foster employee creativity and team innovation. Finally, in Eastern contexts in particular, leaders or managers need to take into account employees’ perceptions of their own competencies. As demonstrated by one of the studies, competent employees perceive paternalistic behaviors as indications of a leader’s recognition of their proactive efforts as exemplary and valuable employees. Even though such findings are somewhat conflicting, it is understandable that, in these contexts, obedience to an authoritative figure (specifically, the leader or the manager) is embedded in the participants’ cultural values.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Sen Sendjaya

Additional supervisor 1

Giles Hirst

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Business and Economics

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