Transformational leadership and innovative work behavior

Bilal Afsar (Department of Management Sciences, Hazara University, Mansehra, Pakistan)
Waheed Ali Umrani (Sukkur Institute of Business Administration, Sukkur, Pakistan)

European Journal of Innovation Management

ISSN: 1460-1060

Publication date: 24 June 2019



The purpose of this paper is to investigate the effect of transformational leadership on employee’s innovative work behavior, and the mediating role of motivation to learn, and the moderating role of task complexity and innovation climate on the link between transformational leadership and innovative work behavior.


A questionnaire, designed as a self-reported survey, was distributed to full-time employees and their respective supervisors working in 35 firms (services and manufacturing sectors) in Pakistan. Data were collected from 338 employee–supervisor dyads. The hypotheses were tested using structural equation modeling.


Results showed that transformational leadership had a positive impact on employees’ innovative work behavior and motivation to learn mediated transformational leadership–innovative work behavior link. The study further showed that task complexity and innovation climate moderated the relationship between transformational leadership and employees’ innovative work behavior.

Research limitations/implications

Based on the premises of interactionist perspectives on individual innovation, this study integrated multi-level variables to investigate leaders’ influences on followers’ innovative work behavior. This study contributed to the existing literature by providing empirical evidence on influence of transformational leadership on employees’ innovative work behavior as well as the impact of both individual and organizational level variables.

Practical implications

The close connection among transformational leadership, motivation to learn and innovative work behavior suggests that transformational leadership traits among managers are important to enhance employees’ innovative work behavior. Organizations should pay attention to creating a climate that is supportive of innovation and encourage individuals to learn new knowledge and skills, and provide employees with opportunities to use their acquired knowledge and skills.


This paper contributed to leadership and innovation literatures and provided insights into how the practitioners could use an appropriate leadership style to enhance innovative work behavior among employees. The study adopted a distinct model comprising five variables to investigate innovative work behavior from a multi-level perspective, i.e., motivation to learn and innovative work behavior at the individual level, task complexity at the unit level and innovation climate and leadership at the organizational level. This integrated model of using predictors from multiple levels supported the theoretical assumptions that innovative work behavior resulted from the interaction of individual, group and organizational level factors.



Afsar, B. and Umrani, W. (2019), "Transformational leadership and innovative work behavior", European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

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