Servant Leadership and Group Creativity: The Double-Edged Effects of Group Perspective Taking
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Perspective taking is a cognitive process in which one considers another’s viewpoints or generally sees the world through another’s vantage point. Drawing upon theory and research on perspective taking, my dissertation seeks to understand how and when servant leadership affects group creativity. Specifically, I posit that servant leadership fosters perspective taking within work groups (group perspective taking for brevity), meaning that within a work group, group members consider their coworkers’ viewpoints. I propose the notion of group perspective convergence, which refers to the extent to which group members “see” tasks or work-related problems from the same vantage point, as an important group level underlying cognitive consequence of group perspective taking. I seek to develop and test the idea that group perspective taking is a double-edged sword for group creativity: at the surface level, offering positive impact by improving group coordination; while at the underlying level, engendering group perspective convergence, which may be detrimental to group creativity. Theoretical boundary conditions for the aforementioned relationships are examined. In particular, I theorize that the positive impact of servant leadership on group perspective taking is more profound in high task interdependence groups. Group task complexity strengthens the positive (or negative) relation between group coordination (or group perspective convergence) and group creativity, respectively. A two-wave time lagged study in 89 intact work groups of a Fortune 500 company was conducted to test the research model. Supporting the theory of perspective taking in work groups, it has been found that servant leadership plays a crucial role in nurturing group perspective taking, which, in turn, facilitates group coordination yet produces group perspective convergence. In line with the notion that group perspective taking has double-edged effects on group creativity, I found that in groups with highly complex tasks, group coordination has a positive effect on group creativity, but group perspective convergence has a negative effect on group creativity. In contrast, in groups dealing with relatively simple tasks, group coordination has a negative effect on group creativity, but group perspective convergence has a positive effect.