Literature Review of Self Leadership and Creativity

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The purpose of this literature review is to study and critique a number of academic articles and scholarly literatures in the area of self-leadership and specifically its influence on creativity. With the promising growth of human resource practice, concepts such as self-leadership and creativity become indispensable parts of the HRM framework. Upon careful assessment of the different contributors and impact of self-leadership, subsequent recommendations for future research and implications for contemporary human resource practice will be devised upon the findings of this literature review.

Research Methods

In locating the relevant literature materials, various popular management databases such Ebsco, ProQuest and Infotrac were consulted. They keywords used in facilitating the search include "self-leadership", " creativity", "self-motivation", "employee influence" and "contemporary human resource management". The result of the bundle of literature includes case studies, empirical research (both qualitative and quantitative) and scholarly journal articles. A diversity of literature and scholarly articles were chosen in attempt to obtain an overall understanding of the chosen topics of self-leadership and creativity. An analysis and understanding of these academic literatures will be addressed subsequently.

Self-leadership and Creativity

An emerging area in contemporary human resource practice is self-leadership. A succinct yet meaningful definition of self-leadership is known as "the process of influence to establish the self-direction and self-motivation needed to perform" (Manz, 1986, p.585). Furthermore, an empirical study conducted by Houghton et al (2004) illustrated that "employees who are high in self-leadership are more likely to have higher innovation and creativity potential than employees who are low in self-leadership".

Pursuing further, Beer and Walton (1987) emphasised a new set of assumptions in shaping their meaning of contemporary human resource management as the "Proactive system-wide intervention, with emphasis on 'fit' linking HRM with strategic planning and cultural change".

In contemporary human resource practice, self-leadership and creativity marry at a point when effective self-leadership influences the creation of motivation and a self-bettering learning culture that will support the behaviours required for success. Such self-bettering learning culture serves its optimum purpose when it is transferred across the entire organisation. The shaping of an organisation's culture is analogous to fertilising the soil for seed planting crops. Organisations with supportive cultures and positive attitudes in self-leadership tend to empower employees' motivations and job satisfaction.


It is important to the note that the findings of these scholarly articles vary in variables and a number of other constraints in their own merits. However, for the purpose of this literature review, these findings will be discussed as a collective finding in self-leadership and creativity and contemporary human resource management.

First of all, it is worthy to note that the findings in Houghton et al (2004) paper are predominantly based on correlations between self-leadership and the 'potential' of creativity and not the actual level of creativity. With due respect, it is understandable that there are many variables affecting the practice of creativity such as supervisory styles (Ford, 1996) and the work environment (Amabile, 1997). Other literatures have suggested that employees with high levels of self-leadership tend to have an internal locus of control (Woodman, Sawyer and Griffin, 1993). This means that these employees believed that they have a fairly high level of control over the outcome of results. On the other hand, employees with an external locus of control believed that they have very little or no control over the results or outcome of a matter and therefore may not try as hard as the internal locus of control employees. This is a significant piece of information towards the study of contemporary human resource practice because through understanding the different types of employees' belief, the organization can provide training tailored to individual employees to suit their learning styles most effectively. For instance, employees with internal locus of control, self-leadership and therefore, a high degree of creativity would be a valuable group of human resource to the organization as they would be most likely to strive and produce innovative results. Owing to their high level of self-leadership, they would be influencing themselves to motivate and perform towards their set career goals.

In addition, it is fascinating to note that in the theory of cross-cultural self-leadership, Houghton et al (2004) had referenced the work of Hofstede, Hofstede and Minkov (2010) and contends that cultural biases (ethnocentrism) would significantly impugn on the integrity of collection of empirical data. As a result, Houghton et al (2004) had conducted the empirical data of self-leadership quantities research to encompass team members from different races. The conclusion of the findings is that self-leadership is a self-influence concept and does not usually transcend across cultures. However, Houghton et al (2004) remarked that one should take into account that the western self-leadership concept should be conveyed and explained to the Asian culture to gain unanimous understanding and a more controlled environment of collecting empirical data.

In the research conducted by Ford (1996), different types of supervisory styles were observed. Out of the array of styles, the more prominent one is the comparison of transactional leadership and transformational or charismatic leadership with respect to their impact on creativity. It is interesting to find that transformational supervisors with a vision and/or charisma to motivate employees would often draw their inner potential out and as a result, fulfil self-motivation. This inherent cause and effect proposition coincides with the positive correlation between self-leadership and creativity. It is reasonable to posit that this is due to the fact that when employees are motivated and entrusted with leadership roles, where they can foresee a positive future with the organisation, the likelihood is that they feel a sense of security and association, thus identify themselves with the organisation. These suggestion made by Ford (1996) are aligned with the literature on the hierarchy of needs conducted by Maslow and Frager (1987), that people in general would demand social recognition and a sense of belonging in their workplace.

Quality of literature

The overall presentation and language used amongst these literatures vary greatly. Despite their prominent stance in the human resource management evolution, some of the older papers (i.e. Beer and Walton, 1987; Amabile, 1997) are seen to be using more archaic language and antiquated grammar in presenting their findings. For instance, in the work by Beer and Walton (1987), words such as "societal wellbeing" and "personnel or people management" were often used. It is worthy to note that these terminologies have long been compromised by words such as "corporate social responsibility" (CSR) and "human resource management" respectively.

Implications for Future Research

Williams (1997) has suggested that future research should identify the correlation between how different types of personality characteristics affects the level of self-leadership. Drawing upon Williams' suggestion, future research could further benefit from focusing specifically on personality characteristics such as general self-efficacy, self-esteem, locus of control and self-monitoring.

Due to the growing importance of self-leadership in the HRM arena, future research can also gain advantage from finding correlations between different personality traits and self-leadership. For instance, through the usage of the Myers-Briggs personality traits test as a part of the initial assessment in the early stages of recruitment process.

In addition, through the engagement of HRM professionals, the process of short listing the candidates that are most suitable to the desirable culture of the organization can be achieved. Another practical implication of this new correlation research would be useful for companies who are particularly trying to prevent any increase in employee turnover rate and sunk costs in relation to training and retaining potential leaders.

It is also helpful for companies to predict the level of self-leadership in the early stage of human resource management by selecting candidates with the desirable personality traits. This will in turn lower the cost of human resource selection and future training and development investments.

Furthermore, by selecting candidates with high self-leadership it indicates that these potential employees are more likely to utilize their creativity (as discussed above), contributing to the overall innovative culture of the company.


In summary, the overall quality of the chosen literatures is of exceptionally high standards. In spite of the origin of majority of these articles being from the United States, there is in fact a high coherence of applicability in the Australian workplace. As uncovered by these literatures, there are many benefits of the inter-twined qualities of self-leadership and creativity to the productivity and growth of an organisation. However, it is strongly proposed that future research can build upon these existing findings to add value in the area of contemporary human resource management by filing in the gap from findings of the above-discussed literatures.