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Leader Behaviours that Influence Innovation

Given that innovation places paradoxical demands on the individual, the explorative and exploitative activities that followers undertake to address these demands need to be integrated. Bledow et al. (2009a) suggest that the integration could occur at the level of the paradox itself, in our case— the individual, or team, or integration could be the task of higher management, which would include the immediate supervisor. As we have seen, it is necessary to engage in both of these activities in order to achieve an innovative outcome.

Leadership Behavioural Complexity

Leadership styles are too broad to work with when we analyse innovation at a granular level. Sarros, Cooper, and Santora (2008), in an exploration of transformational leadership and its impact on creating a climate for innovation found that only two of the six dimensions of transformational leadership, viz. visioning and individualized support were related to the perception of a climate for innovation. Similarly, Kesting et al. (2016) have also called for a decomposition of leadership styles to different elements in the study of this relationship. As noted earlier, different leadership elements appear to be related to the different activities required in the creative process. For example, by analysing case studies, Canihls et al. (2014) found that a leader’s facilitating attitude helps in the idea generation phase (which would mostly be explorative) and a hierarchical leadership style is beneficial during idea implementation (which in our conceptualization would be mostly exploitative).

Due to the paradoxical demands of innovation, leaders need to have a repertoire of behaviours that they can demonstrate with competence. In fact, Buijs (2007) styles them as “controlled schizophrenics” (p. 203). That managers can actually indulge in both searching, discovering and experimenting activities as well as selecting, improving, and refining activities is known (Mom, Van Den Bosch, & Volberda, 2007). However, they may differ in their excellence in each of these activities. Behavioural complexity on the part of leaders enables them to handle paradoxes (Denison, Hooijberg, & Quinn, 1995) enabling organizational ambidexterity (Carmeli & Halevi, 2009) . Leaders of innovation must also find an optimal balance between autonomy (to encourage exploration) and structure (to encourage exploitation) (Mainemelis et al., 2015). For instance, Amabile et al. (2004) reports that while monitoring in the form of maintaining contact was beneficial for the perception of leader support, once this became excessive the effect became detrimental. Yuan and Zhou (2008) report that evaluation had differential effects on variation and retention, which roughly correspond to explorative and exploitative activities by followers. Therefore, leaders of innovation must fill multiple roles (Mumford et al., 2002), which are complex and make incompatible demands. How this behavioural complexity influences subordinate behaviour at various stages of the innovation process is not sufficiently clear in the current stage-based models of innovation and creativity. In line with Rosing et al. (2011), we agree that various leadership behaviours could be salient for different activities that an individual or team undertakes in the innovation process and could have facilitating or inhibiting effects on explorative and exploitative activities.

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