What is it about?

The research explored the moderating role of empowering leadership, workplace politics, and job-related stress on the relationship between employee creativity and innovation. To test the hypothesized relationships, data were nested through questionnaire surveys from supervisors (reporting subordinates' imagination) and their deputies. The data displayed the positive impact of employee creativity on innovation. It suggests that employees with specific knowledge, skills and abilities extend suggestions, and new ideas, and display a high level of commitment which results in better innovation outputs. Prior research considers using creativity and innovation terms interchangeably. Creative employees are good at deriving and validating creative abilities by learning and implementing new ideas. Research identifies creativity as a process and innovation as the outcome of this process These innovations may include improving existing, and developing new, products and services for the firms. The findings validate that creative employees possess valuable and novel ideas which can result in innovative outputs. The data revealed that moderation by empowering leadership further strengthens the link between employee creativity and innovation output. The findings are consistent with prior research on leadership, which noted empowering leadership as a predictor of employee creativity and innovation. Empowering leadership enhances the meaningfulness of the work, expresses confidence in employees’ high performance, fosters employee participation in decision-making, and provides autonomy from bureaucratic constraints, which as a result enhances employee creativity for higher innovation outputs. In other words, empowering leadership encourages the level of creative employees and their confidence to share and use novel ideas for innovative outputs. The data revealed that moderation by workplace politics weakens the influence of employee creativity on innovation output. The findings can be explained by noting that to some extent creative employees may feel reluctant to share their available knowledge where tangible or intangible rewards may be associated with many sorts of political affiliations—suggesting that such corporate intent encourages employees to involve themselves in workplace politics to use their official power for personal gains. Another possible explanation could be that employees who have specific creative abilities to offer and implement novel ideas may become reluctant to use them and are more likely to be involved in workplace politics. Contrary to our hypothesis, the moderation of job-related stress strengthens the effects of employee creativity on innovation output and implies that creative employees display more sense of responsibility and alertness for utilizing creative abilities for innovation outputs while being stressed. A possible explanation could be that employees who manage to absorb job-related stress can use novel ideas for creative solutions (innovation). This finding closes an ongoing debate in literature which has been inconclusive on the link between employee stress and innovation. For example, prior research presents both negative and curvilinear effects of employee job-related stress and innovation.

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Why is it important?

The findings will help modern managers to understand the importance of enhancing employee creativity through empowering leadership. Such leadership delegates authority enables employee motivation, develops a conducive working environment by eliminating workplace politics and ensures the well-being of employees. It offers employees the confidence to unleash their creative efforts for innovation. The managers can benefit from the findings: a) to enhance the abilities of creative employees for innovation outputs by practising the role of empowering leadership, b) the extent to which employees display job-related stress and enhance their innovation outputs and c) to be aware of the inverse effects of creative employees' involvement in workplace politics on innovation.


The firms strive hard to recruit, select and employ those who are creative for innovation. The purpose is to be innovative to achieve competitive advantage and enhance performance. We found that creative employees remain no longer innovative when there is workplace politics. Interestingly, an adequate amount of job-related stress and empowering leadership amplified the influence of employee creativity on innovation outputs. In other words, although the previous research was well established on the link between creativity and innovation, the authors knew little about the factors that can strengthen/weaken this relationship. The authors believe that the findings are a small effort to solve the pieces of the puzzle in the literature.

Dr Mir Dost
Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Leadership, stress and politics: influences on creativity and innovation in emerging markets, Management Decision, June 2023, Emerald,
DOI: 10.1108/md-12-2021-1577.
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