Creativity and innovation are necessary for long-term business success. We live in an era when disruption may be just around the corner at any time, and there’s less reason than ever to insist upon the status quo when it comes to products, processes, and business models.

Artificial intelligence and robots can do many things, but creativity is still the product of the human spirit.

Artificial intelligence and robots may be taking over more aspects of business operations, but they cannot replace creativity. Yet there are leadership styles that can effectively stifle creativity, or that do little to promote creativity. Authentic leadership, however, has been found to promote creativity and innovation in the workplace. Here’s what some recent studies have to say about authentic leadership, creativity, and innovation.

What a Study from the Indian Institute of Technology Reveals

A study published earlier in 2019 in the International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management found that among 300 employees in the heavy engineering and automotive industry in India, authentic leadership promoted creativity. The study concluded that organizations can enjoy the benefits of a creative and engaged workforce by selecting and developing authentic leaders.

Researchers concluded that authentic leadership promotes psychological meaningfulness in work and enhances worker engagement and creativity. Authentic leadership additionally was found to have an indirect impact on creativity through an atmosphere of psychological safety.

Portuguese Researchers Reach a Similar Conclusion

Another 2019 study published in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies observed 177 leader-follower dyads covering 26 private, small and medium-sized companies in Portugal. Followers reported their affective commitment level while leaders assessed follower creativity.

Results showed that an authentic leadership style had a positive effect on both employee affective commitment and creativity. The study concluded that organizations can boost employee creativity by encouraging their leaders to adopt a more authentic leadership style. Authentic leaders are characterized by attributes like:

  • Self-awareness
  • Genuineness
  • Focus on long-term results
  • Leading with both heart and mind

Shandong University Study on Inclusive Leadership and Innovation

Finally, a 2019 study by researchers at Shandong University in China published on PLOS ONE studied the relationship between employee creativity and inclusive leadership, which shares characteristics with authentic leadership. Specifically, “inclusive leadership” as defined by the researchers is a leadership style where the leader’s words and deeds demonstrate an invitation and appreciation for others’ contributions.

Authenticity and inclusivity naturally go together. Both qualities in leaders encourage creative thinking.

Data were collected among supervisors and employees in 15 service-based organizations (such as banking, law, and retail businesses) in six cities in China. The study concluded that inclusive leadership had significantly positive effects on perceived organizational support and on employee innovative behavior.

Authenticity in leadership clearly has positive effects. These studies demonstrate that authentic leadership is associated with higher levels of creativity, engagement, and innovation among front-line employees. Leadership coaching programs that help leaders understand the importance of inclusivity and authenticity may be worth consideration for businesses that want their leaders to have the right leadership skill set to unleash creativity and innovation in the workplace.

Likewise, leadership coaching can address client concerns with understanding, developing, and demonstrating authenticity. With the help of a leadership coach, leaders can gain a better understanding of how they’re perceived by team members and can practice behaviors that demonstrate greater authenticity and inclusivity. These behaviors, in turn, offer an environment that is more conducive to employee creativity and innovation.

Many aspects of business operation must be done “by the book,” and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, innovation and creativity can’t be forced. They can be encouraged and supported by strong corporate culture and authenticity in leadership, and it would be hard to overstate the importance of this encouragement and support. Creativity can be a strong business asset and competitive differentiator, and it’s something that robots and artificial intelligence can’t duplicate.

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