Informal Hierarchy and Team Creativity: The Moderating Role of Empowering Leadership

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Abstract

Although there is growing evidence that strong informal influence hierarchies can enhance teams’ core task performance, recent theorising suggests that such informal hierarchies may, at the same time, stifle team creativity. The current study draws from the Motivated Information Processing in Groups (MIP-G) model to empirically examine this latter notion. Moreover, we build on functional leadership theories to propose that the link between informal hierarchy strength and team creativity hinges on a formal team leader's empowering leadership. Using a sample of 56 organisational work teams comprising 304 individuals from a wide range of industries, we found that stronger informal influence hierarchies related negatively with team creativity when the formal leader exhibited little empowering behaviour. When the formal leader acted in more empowering ways, by contrast, this negative relationship was dampened. These findings provide new knowledge on the role of informal influence hierarchies for team creativity and advance our understanding of how informal hierarchical relations and formal leadership processes can jointly shape important team outcomes.

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