Leadership and It’s Impact on Creativity

Does effective leadership improve creativity of employees in the workplace? A recent study from Susan Strickland (University of Colorado at Denver) and Annette Towler (DePaul University) suggests that higher levels of charismatic leadership tend to occur with higher levels of creative behaviour among certain employees.

Charismatic leaders are those who are visionaries, those who inspire us and those who have a strong, positive belief in themselves. It makes sense that people who inspire us, might also inspire us to be more creative and to take more risks. 

Strickland and Towler looked at pairs of supervisors and employees.  They asked the employees to rate the supervisors’ charismatic leadership, while the supervisors rated the employees’ creative behaviour. 

What they found was that charismatic leadership increased creative behaviours among some employees.  Employees who were low in openness to experience were more creative when paired with a charismatic leader, than when not paired with a charismatic leader.  Employees who were high in openness to experience appeared to have no meaningful change in their creative behaviour when working with a charismatic leader.

We know from research that as openness to experience increases, so does creative behaviour.  As well, as openness to experience increases, so does an individual’s belief that they have creative abilities, in other words, they would say, “I am creative”.  So if you already believe that you are creative, having a charismatic leader to inspire you isn’t likely going to increase your creative output, because you are already creative.

But, for those who are not open to experience, a charismatic leader who inspires you, may encourage you to take creative risks, because you believe in the cause, because you are excited or motivated by the purpose

So if you are looking to increase creativity in your workforce, and you think your employees are low in openness to experience,  you might want to consider your leadership approach. How inspirational, visionary is your organization’s mission?  Does it inspire your employees? How can you create a purpose for them that will inspire them to take creative risks? 

(Source: Strickland, Susan and Towler, Annette.  “Correlates of Creative Behaviour: The Role of Leadership and Personal Factors”. Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences. 28: 41 — 51 (2011) Published 3 August 2010.


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