Leader Support Is Important For Creative Problem Solving

It is well-established that leaders play an essential role in shaping employee creativity. Several field studies have found relationships between leader support for creativity and follower creativity. However, few studies have examined this through the lens of experimental research.


In this study, researchers (Maliakkal & Reiter-Palmon, 2022) collected survey data from a final sample of 247 working adults via an online data collection platform (MTurk). Participants responded to a series of demographic questions and were then randomly assigned to one of four experimental conditions.

All participants were presented with a scenario describing a hypothetical problem occurring in a fictional organization. Upon reading the scenario, participants were presented with a note that was written by their supervisor that asked participants to solve the problem by generating as many ideas as possible. Participants were also asked to select the solution they thought would be best to implement. Leader support was manipulated by using different phrases. For example, to portray high leader support, the note said, “I believe your ideas will solve our organizations issues.” To portray low leader support, it said, “Your job is to generate as many ideas (as possible) to solve the organization’s problem.”

Results indicated that high leader support for creativity increased the number of ideas that followers generated. Additionally, it was revealed that high leader support for creativity led followers to produce a greater number of original ideas, as well as a greater number of high quality ideas. Results also indicated that employees led by a woman (versus a man) had a higher average level of originality. Leader gender did not affect the number of ideas generated by followers or the average quality of ideas.


This study’s findings offer several practical implications. The authors recommend that leaders be aware that their support for creativity can lead their followers to generate more ideas. Additionally, they say that leaders should be aware that supporting creativity may increase specific thinking processes, such as the generation of ideas. Overall, the authors suggest that leader support for creativity may go a long way when it comes to followers generating multiple ideas. Additionally, the authors recommend that leader gender should not be overlooked; women leaders should be placed where employees are required to be more novel and imaginative.


Maliakkal, N. T., & Reiter‐Palmon, R. (2022). The effects of leader support for creativity and leader gender on subordinate creative problem‐solving performance. The Journal of Creative Behavior.

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