Rethinking the leadership-employee creativity relationship: A regulatory focus approach

Ramzi Said

Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)

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Employee creativity is one of the most important human resources at work. Leaders play a pivotal role in stimulating employees to show creativity in their work. Research findings on the relationship between leadership and employee creativity, however, have been inconclusive and somewhat disappointing. We rethink this relationship by going back to the essence of leadership: influencing employees through goal setting. Using the construct of leader regulatory focus, we conducted three empirical field studies to examine how leaders affect employee creativity through articulating promotion and prevention goals. We first show that leader promotion (prevention) focus positively (negatively) relates to employee creativity, and that this relationship is mediated by employees’ intrinsic motivation for creativity (conformity to supervisor). Moreover, we show that leader regulatory focus predicts employee creativity over and above well-established leadership constructs. Second, we find that leader promotion focus positively relates to leader creative expectations and that these expectations are essential in stimulating employee radical creativity. This is the case especially when employees have a high-quality relationship with their supervisor and have high creative self-efficacy beliefs. Finally, results show that supervisors use prevention-focused leadership to deal with low performance of knowledge workers, and that this may unintentionally cause a downward performance spiral: in response to a leader prevention focus, knowledge workers conform to their supervisor, thereby restricting their creative capacity, and subsequently show lower performance. By means of this thesis, we shed new light on how, why, and when leader regulatory focus stimulates or inhibits employee creativity.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Groningen
  • Nijstad, Bernard, Supervisor
  • Janssen, Onne, Supervisor
Award date15-Feb-2016
Place of Publication[Groningen]
Print ISBNs978-90-367-8545-7
Electronic ISBNs978-90-367-8544-0
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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