Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

When and Why Follower–leader Secure Attachment Fosters Employee Creativity

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

When and Why Follower–leader Secure Attachment Fosters Employee Creativity

Article excerpt

In today's competitive world, creativity is a key resource for individuals, in organizations, and in societies. It enables employees to derive increased benefit from opportunities and cope effectively with challenges. It has also been considered a critical element for organizations to survive and develop high-quality products or services in the global market with its unpredictable changes (Anderson, Potočnik, & Zhou, 2014). In most companies, an increasing emphasis is placed on motivating employees to work creatively (Liu, Gong, Zhou, & Huang, 2017).

According to Amabile (1988) creativity refers to the generation of ideas that are novel and useful for accomplishing desired goals. A number of researchers have investigated the effect of leader-follower relationships on creativity (Parke, Seo, & Sherf, 2015; Zhao, Kessel, & Kratzer, 2014; Zhou & Hoever, 2014). However, it is still not clear what precise aspect of the leader-follower relationship has an impact on creativity. Therefore, taking a path that has rarely been explored, we adopted an attachment perspective to understand how follower-leader secure attachment (FLSA) relationships might influence followers' creativity.

Using attachment theory, researchers have suggested that followers may develop a specific attachment relationship with their direct leaders, which will influence their performance, especially in an uncertain environment (Mayseless & Popper, 2007; Wu & Parker, 2017). According to evidence in previous research, when an individual has formed a secure attachment relationship, this will provide him or her with psychological security and will facilitate explorative behavior (Feeney & Thrush, 2010). Nonetheless, it is still not clear whether or not FLSA would foster followers' creativity in the workplace. In order to clarify this, our first objective in the current study was to explore the influence of FLSA on followers' creativity. Additionally, we examined the underlying motivational mechanism that links FLSA to followers' creativity. Finally, we investigated the situational factor as a boundary condition that influences the effectiveness of FLSA in its influence on creativity. We expected that the empirical results would contribute to greater understanding of the theories of attachment and creativity.

Literature Review and Hypothesis Development

Attachment Theory and Follower-Leader Attachment

Attachment theory was originally developed from Bowlby's (1982) early work on relationships in childhood. He found that children's attachment to their caregivers would influence how they interact with others and explore the environment. This early experience in childhood develops into an internal working model, which subsequently impacts individuals' interpersonal relationships, emotional strategies, and work behavior. Recently, management scholars (e.g., Game, 2011; Harms, Bai, & Han, 2016) have extended this theory to understand leadership and leader-follower relationships. Many scholars have suggested that followers may develop a specific attachment relationship with their direct leaders, as has been proven in the case of student-teacher and client-therapist relationships (Davidovitz, Mikulincer, Shaver, Izsak, & Popper, 2007; Game, West, & Thomas, 2016). Because power and resources are distributed unequally between leaders and their followers in organizations, leaders, as the people with more power and resources, may serve as an attachment figure. When a follower encounters risk, complexity, and uncertainty, a sensitive and responsive leader could provide the functions of a safe haven and secure base that enable the follower to explore options for coping with the challenges in the workplace, and to have the confidence to overcome potential obstacles. Such positive interaction will lead to a broaden-and-build cycle, which results in the formation of a secure attachment relationship between follower and leader (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007). …

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