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Relationships between leadership, motivation and employee-level innovation: evidence from India

Vishal Gupta (Organizational Behavior Area, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 9 March 2020

Issue publication date: 21 September 2020




Integrating the behavioral theory of leadership, the componential theory of creativity and the self-determination theory (SDT), the study tests the relationships between leadership, work motivation (intrinsic motivation, integrated extrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation) and employee-level innovation (innovative work behavior and innovation outcomes) in a work setting.


Data were collected using a survey questionnaire from 493 scientists working in India's largest civilian research and development (R&D) organization. The structural equation modeling (SEM) method was used to test the hypothesized relationships between the study variables.


The study found evidence for positive relationships between leadership, employee autonomous motivation (intrinsic and integrated extrinsic motivation) and employee-level innovation. The study shows that extrinsic motivation is positively related to innovation only when the value of rewards is integrated to one's sense of self (integrated extrinsic motivation). Extrinsic motivation, otherwise, is not related to innovation.

Research limitations

The study was cross-sectional, so inferences about causality are limited.

Practical implications

First, while extrinsic motivation is considered bad for innovation, the study provides evidence that integrated extrinsic motivation complements intrinsic motivation and encourages employee-level innovation. Second, the study shows that leaders can aid the process of development of autonomous motivation by displaying positive behaviors. Third, the study validates the mediating role of autonomous motivation for the leadership–innovation relationship.


The study provides an insight into the underlying process through which leaders can impact innovation at the workplace. To the best of the author's knowledge, such a study is the first of its kind undertaken in an organizational context.



The author thanks the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, India, for allowing him to conduct the survey at its constituent R&D laboratories and for extending all possible help for completing the exercise in time. The author also thanks the scientists who agreed to participate in the study and gave their valuable inputs and time.


Gupta, V. (2020), "Relationships between leadership, motivation and employee-level innovation: evidence from India", Personnel Review, Vol. 49 No. 7, pp. 1363-1379.



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