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Fueling the creative spark

  • Sumanth, John J.
  • Černe, Matej
  • Hannah, Sean T.
  • Škerlavaj, Miha
Publication Date
Aug 11, 2023
University of Ljubljana
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Creativity is a critical determinant of organizations' abilities to compete and perform in rapidly changing and complex contexts. Though scholars have identified several contextual factors, such as leadership, that motivate employees' creative performance, the psychological mechanisms and boundary conditions underpinning this relationship are relatively unknown. Drawing on social exchange theory, we propose that a proactive orientation, a psychological state rooted in the cognitive and behavioral process of setting a proactive goal and striving to achieve it, is a critical mechanism linking authentic leadership to employees' creativity. Across two field studies of working professionals in Central Europe and the U.S., we show how authentic leadership fuels employees' creative performance through a proactive orientation and introduce leader-member exchange (LMX) as an important moderator of this mediated relationship. In Study 1, using a sample of European manufacturing employees, we find support for the mediating role of a proactive orientation linking authentic leadership to creative performance, above, and beyond the effects of ethical leadership. In Study 2, using a sample of university staff, we replicate this finding and extend it by highlighting the moderating role of LMX on the authentic leadership-proactive orientation relationship.

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