To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Humble leader behavior and team creativity: the team learning perspective

Lifan Chen (School of Labor and Human Resources, Renmin University of China, Beijing, China)
Shengming Liu (School of Management, Fudan University, Shanghai, China)
Yue Wang (Jesse H. Jones School of Business, Rice University, Houston, Texas, USA)
Xiaoli Hu (University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 15 March 2021

Issue publication date: 29 March 2021



This study argues that leader humility is an important facilitator of team creativity. Based on social learning theory, the study explores a new mechanism that links humble leader behavior to team creativity through a path of team learning.


Data were collected in two private-owned technology companies located in South China. The two-time survey included 77 team leaders and 310 employees. An analysis of time-lagged, multisource data was conducted.


Evidence shows that humble leader behavior promotes team learning behavior through a social learning process, with a subsequent increase in team creativity. This influence is also strengthened when leader effectiveness is high.

Practical implications

Team creativity is an important determinant of organizational success. This research shows that humble leaders can motivate team creativity by acting as a role model. In addition, this research also reminds us that humble leader behavior loses its effect if the leader is incapable.


This research contributes to existing literature on humble leader behavior and team creativity, especially on the mechanisms and contingency effects between these factors.



Funding: This research was supported by the grants funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant 72004222 and 72002038), and Technological and Innovative Enterprise Management Project of School of Management Fudan University (Grant 20210203).


Chen, L., Liu, S., Wang, Y. and Hu, X. (2021), "Humble leader behavior and team creativity: the team learning perspective", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 36 No. 3, pp. 272-284.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited