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A multi-level study of servant leadership on creativity: The roles of self-efficacy and power distance

Jin Yang (School of Public Affairs, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China)
Hefu Liu (School of Management, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China)
Jibao Gu (School of Management, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Publication date: 3 July 2017

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the influencing mechanism of servant leadership on employee and team creativity based on efficacy theory. Specifically, the study intends to develop a model of efficacy beliefs that mediates the relationships between servant leadership, employee creativity, and team creativity at different levels. The study also aims to investigate the moderating effects of team power distance on the relationships between servant leadership, creative self-efficacy, and team efficacy at both individual and team levels.

Design/methodology/approach

Servant leadership, employee creativity, creative self-efficacy, team creativity, team efficacy, and team power distance were assessed in an empirical study based on a sample of 466 employees and 83 team leaders from 11 banks in China.

Findings

From efficacy theory perspective, this paper finds that servant leadership promotes employee creative self-efficacy and team efficacy, which enables the simultaneous promotion of employee creativity and team creativity. Team power distance also moderates the relationship between servant leadership and team efficacy.

Practical implications

The results suggest that it is important to encourage managers to engage in servant leader behaviors, which is conductive to enhancing employees’ self-efficacy beliefs and thereby improving creative outcomes of employees. The results are also helpful for managers to enhance their understanding of the differences in cultural values in management behavior and the effects of behavior on team efficacy.

Originality/value

The research findings provide a significant contribution to the literature in that it shows self-efficacy as a crucial mediating mechanism through which servant leadership influences creativity at individual and team levels. Moreover, the findings support the view that power distance is an important contextual factor that affects the influencing mechanism of servant leadership on team creativity. Furthermore, this paper is one of the few studies answering the call to examine the effect of leadership at multiple levels.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge the funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NFSC: 71371177).

Citation

Yang, J., Liu, H. and Gu, J. (2017), "A multi-level study of servant leadership on creativity: The roles of self-efficacy and power distance", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 38 No. 5, pp. 610-629. https://doi.org/10.1108/LODJ-10-2015-0229

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited