Can high leader–member exchange spark low creativity among graduate students? The role of stress and personal initiative

  • Di Zhao
  • Jianlin Wu
  • Jibao GuEmail author


The factors that influence graduate student creativity have drawn attention in higher education research. It is controversial whether leader–member exchange (LMX), here representing supervisor–student exchange relationship, can promote creativity. Previous studies on the LMX–creativity relationship have ignored the roles of negative psychological processes and personality differences. From the resource allocation perspective, we consider challenge stress and hindrance stress as the mediators and identify personal initiative (PI) as a moderator to examine the relationship between LMX and graduate student creativity. The results obtained from 576 Chinese samples confirm that LMX promotes graduate student creativity by reducing their hindrance stress; the interaction term between high PI and high LMX increases challenge stress. These findings support the importance of developing high quality supervisor–student exchange relationship for graduate students, adding their challenge stress, reducing their hindrance stress, and cultivating their PI so as to improve their creativity.


Graduate student creativity LMX Challenge stress Hindrance stress Personal initiative 



This study was funded by Natural Science Foundation of Anhui Province (CN) under Grant 1708085MG174; and Natural Science Foundation of Anhui Province (CN) under Grant 1808085MG223.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have 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 (include name of committee + reference number) 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 ManagementUniversity of Science and Technology of ChinaHefeiChina

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