Recognizing creative leadership: Can creative idea expression negatively relate to perceptions of leadership potential? 

Jennifer Mueller, Management, San Diego University; Jack Goncalo, Organizational Behavior, Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations; and Dishan Kamdar, Organizational Behavior, Indian School of Business

Abstract: Drawing on and extending prototype theories of creativity and leadership, we theorize that the expression of creative ideas may diminish judgments of leadership potential unless the charismatic leadership prototype is activated in the minds of social perceivers. Study 1 shows creative idea expression is negatively related to perceptions of leadership potential in a sample of employees working in jobs that required creative problem solving. Study 2 shows that participants randomly instructed to express creative solutions during an interaction are viewed as having lower leadership potential. A third scenario study replicated this finding showing that participants attributed less leadership potential to targets expressing creative ideas, except when the “charismatic” leader prototype was activated. In sum, we show that the negative association between expressing creative ideas and leadership potential is robust and underscores an important but previously unidentified bias against selecting effective leaders.