Uncertainty avoidance moderates the relationship between transformational leadership and innovation: A meta-analysis

  • Logan L WattsEmail author
  • Logan M Steele
  • Deanne N Den Hartog
Research Note


Transformational leadership is commonly assumed to facilitate employee innovation in all cultures. Drawing upon field studies from 17 countries, this meta-analysis revealed that supervisor transformational leadership is positively related to individual- and team-level innovation regardless of national boundaries. However, the relationship trended somewhat more strongly in countries with higher levels of uncertainty avoidance. These findings suggest that employee innovation in most countries can be enhanced by investing in supervisor transformational leadership, but organizations operating in countries with higher levels of uncertainty avoidance may benefit more from this strategy.


transformational leadership innovation creativity uncertainty avoidance meta-analysis 


Dans toutes les cultures, on suppose généralement que le leadership transformationnel facilite l’innovation des employés. S’appuyant sur des études de terrain menées dans 17 pays, cette méta-analyse a révélé que le leadership transformationnel des superviseurs est positivement lié à l’innovation au niveau des individus et des équipes, quelles que soient les frontières nationales. Toutefois, le lien est légèrement renforcé dans les pays où les niveaux de contrôle de l’incertitude sont plus élevés. Ces résultats suggèrent que, dans la plupart des pays, il est possible d’améliorer l’innovation des employés en investissant dans le leadership transformationnel des superviseurs, mais que les organisations opérant dans des pays caractérisés par un plus fort contrôle de l’incertitude pourraient tirer davantage parti de cette stratégie.


El liderazgo transformación es asumido comúnmente para facilitar la innovación de los empleados en todas las culturas. A partir de estudios de campo en 17 países, este meta-análisis reveló que el liderazgo transformacional del supervisor se relaciona positivamente con la innovación a nivel individual y de equipo, independientemente de las fronteras nacionales. Sin embargo, la relación tendió a ser algo más fuerte en países con niveles más altos de evitación de la incertidumbre. Estos hallazgos sugieren que la innovación de los empleados en la mayoría de los países puede ser aumentada invirtiendo en el liderazgo transformacional del supervisor, pero las organizaciones que operan en países con mayores niveles de evitación de la incertidumbre pueden beneficiarse más de esta estrategia.


Liderança transformacional é comumente admitida como facilitadora para a inovação de funcionários em todas as culturas. Baseando-se em estudos de campo de 17 países, esta meta-análise revelou que a liderança transformacional do supervisor está positivamente relacionada à inovação em nível individual e de equipe, independentemente das fronteiras nacionais. No entanto, o relacionamento tendeu a ser um pouco mais forte em países com níveis mais altos de evitação de incerteza. Essas descobertas sugerem que a inovação de funcionários na maioria dos países pode ser aprimorada com o investimento em liderança transformacional do supervisor, mas organizações que operam em países com mais altos níveis de evitação de incerteza podem se beneficiar mais dessa estratégia.


变革型领导力被通常认为能够促进所有文化中的员工创新。根据来自17个国家的实地研究, 这项元分析显示, 主管的变革型领导力与个人和团队层面的创新都正相关,而与国界无关。然而, 在不确定性规避等级较高的国家这种关系趋强。这些研究结果表明, 大多数国家的员工创新可以通过投资主管的变革型领导力来加强, 但在不确定性规避等级较高的国家运营的组织可能会从这一策略中更多地受益。



We would like to thank Kelsey Medeiros, Tyler Mulhearn, and Tristan McIntosh who contributed as coders, Michael Mumford who inspired the initial literature review, and the many scholars who responded to our calls for primary data. We also thank our Editor, Dr. Mark Peterson, and three anonymous reviewers, whose thoughtful recommendations significantly improved the quality of this manuscript. An earlier version of this work was presented at the 33rd annual conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Chicago, IL.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Academy of International Business 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Logan L Watts
    • 1
    Email author
  • Logan M Steele
    • 2
  • Deanne N Den Hartog
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Baruch College and The Graduate CenterCUNYNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Muma College of BusinessUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA
  3. 3.The University of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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