Humility breeds creativity.

Workers who have humble managers — leaders who give employees a voice in the decision-making process and acknowledge their own limitations — are more creative, according to new study carried out by Ohio State University.

And the more bosses share power with their employees by letting them collaborate on important initiatives and express disagreement, the more creative workers are shown to be. Although the research was conducted primarily in China, the study authors say their findings are applicable to US workers, as well.

 

“Being a humble leader can be very helpful for teams to reach higher creativity outcomes,” lead author and Ohio State University professor of management Jasmine Hu told Moneyish. “When team members expect leaders to [be open to] power-sharing and they expect to have a say and have a chance to speak up in the decision-making process,” employees ranked their managers higher and exhibited greater ingenuity on the job.

 

Hu disputed the notion that her study might imply that workers are equally creative whether they have humble managers or not, but simply are more encouraged to speak up and share their creative ideas when their bosses are more receptive. That’s because she and her colleagues first measured the humility of leaders, and then assessed the degree of creativity in their employees six months later. They observed a “noticeable growth in creativity” on teams where employees said they were lead by humble managers, providing evidence for this link.

But humility as a leader isn’t always a virtue — in situations where employees expected their managers to be more authoritative in providing direction, employees could perceive such humility as weakness, the study found.

Why, ultimately, do humble leaders promote a more creative workplace? “Leaders who scored higher on humility tended to facilitate information sharing between team members,” Hu said in a summary of the study. “And when they shared more information with each other, they broadened the scope of team skills, more actively looked for novel solutions to problems, and were more creative.”

Previous studies have shown that humility is an important factor in good management. For instance, according to Fast Company, research presented in the January 2014 edition of Administrative Science Quarterly revealed that humble managers — people who “[seek] feedback and [focus] on the needs of others” — led teams that showed higher employee engagement and job performance.

And, experts told Fast Company, the best ways to show humility as a leader include expressing an interest in the needs of your employees, being willing to admit when you’ve erred, and not micromanaging.

Hu named other management qualities that have been shown in research to promote creativity, including “empowering leadership,” which motivates employees to carve their own paths and forge their own ideas. It’s “aligned with leadership humility characteristics,” Hu said.

What’s more, transformational leadership has also been shown to help creativity amongst workers flow — it’s leadership which fundamentally alters how employees think and work.