The impact of leadership styles on innovation - a review

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Peter Kesting
John Parm Ulhøi
Lynda Jiwen Song
Hongyi Niu


This paper reviews the insights that research offers on the impact of different leadership styles on innovation. To do so, we develop a framework, structuring research insights into four dimensions: people, means, effects, and goals/outcomes for innovations. Based on this framework, we review publications on: directive and participative leadership, interactive leadership, charismatic leadership, transformational leadership, transactional & instrumental leadership, strategic & CEO leadership, and shared & distributed leadership. We find strong indications that different innovation stages and types raise different demands on leadership. Against this background, transformational leadership is not the only style to lead innovations, but different leadership styles fit differently well with different innovation types and stages. However, the specification of this fit is still very incomplete and the answer to the question of how to lead innovations remains sketchy. In result of the review of this paper we map existing insights and research needs.

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