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In fostering environments where creativity thrive, stronger overall businesses will emerge. However, the way in which a manager of employees can get optimum creativity from his workforce is not always clear. According to Peiperl (2002, 106), creating teams of people inspired by the spirit of creativity will enhance overall performance within a business. This study intends to find the common elements of managerial/ leadership styles that promote employee creativity and innovation in the work environment.
Creativity and Innovation
In many research studies, the terms creativity and innovation are often used interchangeably, however, there are noted differences between the two. Mumford & Gustafson (1988) contend that creativity has to do with the production of novel and useful ideas, and innovation has to do with the production or adoption of such useful ideas as well as its implementation (Kanter, 1988; Van de Ven, 1986). In any case, organizations need both to be successful in the achievement of its goals.
Robinson (2011) contends that in order to maintain a competitive edge, creativity and innovation are necessary to generate new ideas for products and services. To develop these essential attributes, flexibility and adaptability to change must be developed by people in their education and training.
Creative thinking refers to how people come up with solutions to existing problems (Amabile, 1996, 1998). It is the result of an individual's effort to mix and match existing, conventional ideas together to create new approaches to solving problems. Such thinking does not produce creativity merely from an individual's intellectual efforts, but creativity is an outcome of his accumulated creative thinking skills and expertise based on his past experiences (Amabile, 1998). However, even if an individual has enough appropriate creative thinking skills and expertise, a high level of creativity will not be reached if he or she lacks the motivation to mobilize efforts to use such capabilities (Jung, 2001).
A common phrase used referring to creativity is 'thinking outside the box". Notar & Padgett (2010) commented that very successful people never appear to have a "box" from which they ope rate. However, a box is something associated with something that confines one to a finite space. "Thinking outside the box" then means not thinking in a finite space but opening the minds out to infinite space with endless possibilities. Bernacki (2002) enumerates some attributes related to "thinking outside the box as having a willingness to take new perspectives to day-to-day work. It also entails openness to do different things and to do things differently. Creative individuals focus on the value of finding new ideas and acting on them. They strive to create value in new ways. Although they already have great ideas in mind, they still enjoy listening to others due to their perennial search for better ideas.
Amabile (1998) suggests that for leaders to foster creativity among their subordinates, they must establish an organizational environment wherein subordinates feel safe contributing their ideas and trying out innovative approaches without fear of punishment for failure. Transformational leaders stimulate their followers to think 'out of the box' by enhancing generative and exploratory thinking (Sosik et al., 1998). Such leaders push their followers to bravely think about old problems in new ways, to question their own values, traditions and beliefs, as well as the leader's beliefs and assumptions (Bass, 1985; Hater & Bass, 1988). Diehl & Stroebe (1991) illustrate that when group members brainstorm to generate innovative and creative approaches to solve problems at hand, their leader's intellectually stimulating behaviors, statements and attitudes can facilitate members to spend more time generating unconventional ideas as well as help them reduce the potential effect of evaluation apprehension, thus enhancing creativity in groups.
When faced with tasks that require creative thinking, teams may either work well together towards a solution or work better individually, depending on their creative thinking styles.
The kind of support the environment gives a person also reflects in the level of creativity he may develop. Torrance (1965, 1972) has found that a non-punitive classroom or work environment that focuses on the development and evaluation of understandings while nurturing independent thought and exploration tends to enhance idea generation. This finding supports studies of organizational climate and productivity. Research indicates that a positive organizational climate that is supportive of creative efforts and encouraging of action tends to facilitate scientific productivity. (Taylor, 1963, 1972). Pelz (1956) found that environments that encourage interaction, autonomy and production of knowledge led to creative achievement. On the other hand, environments characterized by distrust, lack of communication, limited autonomy and ambiguous goals inhibited scientific innovation. (Mumford & Gustafson, 1988)
Sternberg (2003) proposes several aspects of interactions that might create or diminish the creative impulse. Groups that compete against one another do much better than groups that compete within themselves. The team concept is stronger than the survival of the fittest concept of competition. As well, when an employee feels that he will be evaluated for his creativity, the amount of innovation appears to diminish. Many other studies have been done on a range of managerial actions that might influence creativity and innovation in the workplace. Shalley & Gilson (2004) pointed out the negative effects of close supervision and the value of support in their study on social/ organizational influences on creative work. Reiter-Palmon and Illies (2003) focused on cognitive influences, noting the importance of managerial actions that increase information availability and provide the time needed to work through problems.
With regard to motivating and rewarding creative work, different positions surface. One is that extrinsic rewards such as pay incentives, promotions, recognition, etc. diminish creativity (Collins & Amabile, 1999) while another position holds that extrinsic rewards can enhance creativity (Eisenberg & Cameron, 1996). Baer et al (2003) suggest that job complexity and people's creative problem solving style, specifically adaptation versus innovation, interact in determining the effects of rewards. Therefore, a leader should be able to provide a range of rewards but more on creating conditions likely to foster intrinsic motivation.
No matter how great a team gets in terms of innovation, creative cultures keep on questioning things. They want to know how to do things even better and are humble enough to know that they are continuously growing and learning and always in need of feedback and new information (Robinson, 2011).
The literature suggests that leaders have much to do in encouraging creativity in their employees. Mumford & Licuanan (2004) have summarized conditions that shape the impact of leader behavior on creativity and innovation. These include the creativity of their followers; work group processes guided by clarity of objectives, emphasis on quality, participation and support for innovation; leader control of rewards; job characteristics such as job complexity and challenge; and organizational climate and structure. Mumford, Connelly, & Gaddis, (2003) identify that leaders should possess substantial technical and professional expertise as well as substantial creative thinking skills. These researchers argue that creative thought on the part of leaders begin with evaluation of their followers' ideas. This evaluation stimulates brainstorming efforts of both leaders and followers where idea generation becomes active. Followers' ideas are reshaped and reformed based on their leader's expertise and professional experiences (Mumford & Licuanan, 2004).
Innovation can only be possible if imagination and creativity have been cultivated in an organization, and this needs to be initiated by organizational leaders. Leaders should nurture a culture where everyone's ideas are valued and maintain a balance of freedom to experiment and an agreed system of evaluation. Generally, they facilitate a harmonious relationship between the external and internal cultures, with the external culture consisting of "technological innovations, population change, new patterns of trade, fluctuation in fiscal and monetary policies, global competition, the increasing strains on natural resources and the effects of all of these on how customers and clients are thinking and feeling" (Robinson, 2011, p. 98). Internal culture involves social behaviours and practices accepted in the organization which gives it its distinctive feel. It can be said that it is how things are usually done in the organization. The leader of the organization has three main roles in developing a culture of creativity namely the personal, group and cultural roles. These roles feed into each other and may sometimes overlap in order to enrich creativity (Robinson, 2011).
Robinson (2011) explains that the leader needs to be able to facilitate the creative abilities of every member of the organization. Acknowledging that each member has creative potential, the leader should allow them to participate in some functions that entail sharing of their ideas, as some of these may be very helpful to the organization. It will also make them feel valued because they are given the opportunity to make a worthy contribution to the organization. Aside from being participative, members are also encouraged to learn more skills that would not only benefit the organization but their own selves. Creative leaders advocate lifelong learning and create opportunities for their members to continuously and consistently engage in it. Nurturing imaginative minds leads to innovation which eventually comes back to the company (Robinson, 2011).
Creative leaders do not have biases against anyone and welcomes diversity. They believe that each person has something to take to the table due to their diverse backgrounds. Hence, their openness attracts more people, regardless of their background and skill level, to join their creative team. These people anticipate collaboration with each other in order to come up with innovative strategies that will benefit the organization and bring it higher than its competitors. Creative leaders also know that their team members have various work preferences in order to unleash their creativity and provide environments that encourage it. Leaders should be aware of their followers' preferred style of processing of creative thought to be better able to manage groups and integrate the distinct processing styles that characterize the work of the many different people involved in real-world creative efforts (Basaur, 2004). This is why dynamism is consistent. Creative cultures thrive on environments that are alive and free (Robinson, 2011).
Jaussi and Dionne (2003) indicated that unconventional behavior of leaders expressed through role modeling, articulation of a creative mission and the establishment of a creative group identity all contributed to employee creativity. Zhou and George (2003) also argue that by shaping the emotional responses of followers to the problems and challenges posed by creative tasks, leaders stimulate their followers' problem-solving and intrinsic motivation needed for creative work. This suggests that leaders of creative people should not only possess social and emotional intelligence and an ability for rapid adjustment of affect and affect framing should it be required, but also know how to stimulate their followers intellectually. This establishes the creative identity of their group.
Emotional Intelligence and the Creative Leader
Zhou & George (2003) propose that the root of creativity-supportive leadership is emotional intelligence. They argue that leaders play a crucial role in awakening and fostering creativity in organizational members both through their own behaviors and actions and through creating a work environment that supports and encourages creativity. In particular, emotional intelligence enables leaders to awaken, encourage, and support creativity among employees in organizations. Leaders high on emotional intelligence know how to use emotion to help their employees jumpstart the cognitive processes that underlie problem identification and opportunity recognition. Zhou and George (2003) illustrate that when individuals are in positive moods, their optimistic dispositions surface and they feel more confident in facing new opportunities or become dismissive of problems. However, when they are in negative moods, they tend to be more pessimistic yet more readily able to detect mistakes and errors and identify problems (Bower, 1981; Salovey & Birnbaum, 1989). Emotionally intelligent leaders use their knowledge of these effects of moods to awaken their employees' creativity through affect timing and affect balance. Positive moods can be taken advantage of by having followers think up of potential opportunities and have enough optimism to envision improvement and success. On the other hand, negative moods can be exploited by channeling it in the direction of problem recognition and creative problem solving, eventually enhancing the individual's self esteem with the acknowledgement of his contribution instead of gradual withdrawal from the workplace. Even frustration of a worker due to a job-related problem, can be utilized by emotionally intelligent leaders. Both can thresh out the issues and causes of such negative emotion and eventually help the employee to become aware of the problem and adopt a more proactive demeanor in creatively solving it (Zhou & George, 2003).
Conflicts are bound to arise in groups especially when gathering information for creative tasks. Different personalities and backgrounds, level of creativity skills and knowledge may result in disagreements on the standards and boundaries of information to seek. Leaders with high emotional intelligence are able to manage followers' emotions, and help followers achieve a productive balance. More specifically, leaders with high emotional intelligence can accurately sense when followers are losing patience or becoming frustrated with not being able to obtain necessary resources, and when followers become happy and satisfied with their progress prematurely. Because a leader with high emotional intelligence understands the causes and consequences of emotions, he is likely to identify the reason why his followers experience both positive and negative moods. His accurate perceptions enable him to manage and balance the negative and positive emotions and successfully prod the employee to persist in gathering information and staying on-task.
Emotional intelligence will help leaders in encouraging their followers to be open to new learning, and approach new tasks with enthusiasm and optimism rather than with trepidation and dread. It may also happen that followers can be overly excited about new information that they remain in the information gathering stage without any clear goals or efforts to use the information in creative endeavors. Leaders high on emotional intelligence are able to manage their followers' moods so they achieve a balance and focus instead of being carried away by their own exuberance (Zhou & George, 2003).
Emotionally intelligent leaders are fully aware that implementation of creative ideas may involve both positive and negative emotions throughout the process and employees may be on an 'emotional roller-coaster'. These leaders provide their followers with the appropriate encouragement and flexibility and a collective sense of ownership. The need to be flexible themselves should be addressed by leaders and they should be willing to abandon a plan when a more superior and creative idea is born. In situations when negative emotions associated with ownership issues in idea implementation emerge, leaders should be able to manage such emotions so that negative feelings will not adversely affect the idea implementation process. Such leaders will have the emotional know-how to guide their followers and themselves through this difficult and challenging process, all the while being open to the possibility of further changes and improvements and emphasizing collective ownership for ultimate outcomes (Zhou & George, 2003).