Why and when paradoxical leader behavior impact employee creativity: Thriving at work and psychological safety

  • Yang Yang
  • Zhongqiu LiEmail author
  • Liang Liang
  • Xue Zhang


Why and when does paradoxical leader behavior lead to an increase in employee creativity and thriving at work? Based on self-determination theory, we propose that paradoxical leader behavior enhances employee creativity by increasing employees’ thriving at work. We also propose that psychological safety moderates the positive effect of thriving at work on employee creativity. Survey data from 139 supervisor-employee dyads in four Chinese enterprises indicates that paradoxical leader behavior has positive effects on employee creativity via the mediating effect of thriving at work. The results also show that psychological safety strengthens the positive relationship between thriving at work and employee creativity. This positive relationship will be stronger when there are higher levels of psychological safety. Our study supports the self-determination perspective in understanding paradoxical leader behavior, and also strengthens the application of this perspective in understanding paradoxical leader behavior and employee creativity.


Paradoxical leader behavior; thriving at work Psychological safety Employee creativity 



This paper is supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Project Numbers: 71372089).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of ManagementHarbin Institute of TechnologyHarbinPeople’s Republic of China

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