Drawing from the transactional theory of stress, we examined the relationships between authoritarian leadership, fear, defensive silence, and ultimately employee creativity. We also explored the moderating effect of employee psychological capital on these mediated relationships. We tested our hypothesized model in two studies of employee-supervisor dyads working in Africa (Nigeria; Study 1) and Asia (China; Study 2). The results of Study 1 revealed that the negative relationship between authoritarian leadership and creativity was mediated by employee defensive silence. Extending these findings in a three-wave study in Study 2, our results revealed a more complex relationship. Specifically, our results showed that both fear and defensive silence serially mediated the link between authoritarian leadership and employee creativity. In addition, we found that this mediated relationship was moderated by employee psychological capital such that the relationship was stronger when psychological capital was low (versus high). Implications for both theory and practice are discussed.
In today's rapidly changing and increasingly competitive work environment, employees are more than ever expected to produce novel and useful ideas about new products, services and procedures (i.e., exhibit creative behaviors; Zhou & Hoever, 2014). Creativity is important not only because it increases customer satisfaction and loyalty, but it also plays a crucial role in organizational success and survival (Gumusluoglu & Ilsev, 2009). As a result, organizations often seek to adopt policies that fuel employee creativity (Gong, Huang, & Farh, 2009). To do so, researchers have underscored and focused on the role of positive forms of leadership (Bai, Lin, & Li, 2016; Shin & Zhou, 2003; Tierney, Farmer, & Graen, 1999). Although these studies have generated valuable insights, little attention has been paid to potentially darker or destructive sides of leadership and their relationship with employee creativity. An example of such leadership approach is authoritarian leadership (AL) (Aycan, 2006). Authoritarian leaders assert absolute authority and control over employees and expect unquestionable obedience (Cheng, Chou, Wu, Huang, & Farh, 2004). Given that the creative process often requires employees to use their own discretion to share and come up with useful ideas (Amabile, 1988; Gong et al., 2009), a growing body of work has suggested that AL can inhibit creativity (e.g., Wang, Chiang, Tsai, Lin, & Cheng, 2013; Zhang, Tsui, & Wang, 2011). Despite these important findings, there is still lack of a coherent theoretical framework that explicates the psychological processes and moderating factors of such relationship in more depth.