DOI: 10.1287/orsc.2019.13152 ISSN: 1047-7039

Inspiring, Yet Tiring: How Leader Emotional Complexity Shapes Follower Creativity

Jakob Stollberger, Yves Guillaume, Daan van Knippenberg
  • Management of Technology and Innovation
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Strategy and Management

Moods and emotions are an important influence on creativity at work, and recent developments point to emotional complexity as a particularly relevant influence in this respect. We develop this line of research by shifting focus from emotional complexity as an intrapersonal influence to emotional complexity as an interpersonal influence between leader and subordinate. Specifically, we integrate the social-functional approach to emotions with theory on self-regulation to shed light on the effects of leader emotional complexity (LEC), operationalized as alternations between leader displays of happiness and anger, on follower creativity. Three studies, two video experiments (Studies 1 and 2) and a multisource experience sampling study (Study 3), revealed that, on one hand, LEC stimulated creativity by enhancing the cognitive flexibility of followers; on the other hand, LEC led to heightened self-regulatory resource depletion, which compromised follower creativity. Our results also showed that trait epistemic motivation strengthened the positive effects of LEC on creativity via cognitive flexibility, the negative effects via self-regulatory resource depletion were also stronger for followers with higher trait epistemic motivation. Combined, results suggest that leader displays of emotional complexity can be tiring but are even more inspiring.

Supplemental Material: The online appendices are available at .

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