In a world where CEOs become thought leaders, being an ethical leader is paramount. But does this type of leader inspire their team to be creative? For years, it’s been a common assumption in the organizational behavior field that the more ethical a leader is, the less innovative their employees are. But new research from the Georgia Institute of Technology shows that ethical leaders are more likely to increase team creativity.
“It bothered me that there are a number of studies that talk about how you can be ethical, or you can be creative,” said Scheller College of Business Professor Christina Shalley. “I didn't think you had to choose, so I wanted to understand under what conditions can you be both ethical and creative.”
In a study of fast-food workers in South Korea, the researchers surveyed both managers and their employees about their creativity and their leadership ethics. They found that employees are most creative if their ethical leaders create a cohesive team identity and resolve problems quickly.
Shalley and her team published their findings in the paper, "How Does Ethical Leadership Relate to Team Creativity? The Role of Collective Team Identiﬁcation and Need for Cognitive Closure,” in Group & Organization Management.