Leadership and innovative work behavior in hybrid contexts

You can consciously choose a leadership style that encourages people to come up with new ideas

January 19 2024

What influence does a leadership style have on innovative work behavior in hybrid contexts? That question is central to the research on which Robin Edelbroek will receive his PhD January 19. "As an executive, you can consciously choose a leadership style that encourages people to come up with new ideas," he said.

Robin Edelbroek

Edelbroek works as an Account Executive at Google and also did a part-time doctoral program at Nyenrode Business University. "For many organizations these days it's about the importance of an innovative mindset: the ability to think outside the box and generate and realize new ideas. An innovative mindset helps to anticipate future trends and developments, which in turn can lead to a competitive advantage or a more efficient way of working, for example. I became curious about the influence of leadership styles on this, certainly when you consider that people are increasingly working in a hybrid way, such as at home and in the office. Or there is open innovation, where people from different organizations work together on a product or service. Think, for example, of a video game company collaborating with a film company."

Inspiring vision

The study examined, among other things, the effects of transformational and transactional leadership on innovative work behavior. "In transformational leadership, people lead from an inspiring vision, motivating employees to act in the interest of the greater good. This appeals to intrinsic motivation. Transactional leadership is more about rules, agreements and rewards, and thus appeals to extrinsic motivation," Edelbroek explained. "My research shows that transformational leadership has a positive impact on how employees perceive the quality of the open innovation process.


Edelbroek also researched the influence of leadership styles on innovative work behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically the difference between empowering leadership and directive leadership. Empowering leadership is similar to transformational leadership, with the difference being that here the emphasis is on giving employees autonomy. "We see that with empowering leadership, people are more likely to exhibit innovative behavior for longer because they remain less reliant on their manager," Edelbroek says. He also studied the influence of work-related flow on work-home balance during prolonged working from home. Flow refers to when a person experiences an optimal balance between challenge and skill. "We thought that a higher degree of flow would not only stimulate innovative work behavior, but also lead to a better work-home balance. But to our surprise, there turned out to be no effect."

Personal characteristics

In addition to the influence of leadership, Edelbroek also examined the extent to which personal characteristics and the interaction between people, including shared leadership, play a role in innovative work behavior. "In open innovation teams, my research shows that shared leadership does not work well. This is because people in this situation are less likely to accept something from a colleague than from a formal leader. Personal characteristics, such as commitment to work and flow, are actually very important in a hybrid context. People who learn to rely on these traits are more motivated to exhibit innovative work behavior for longer than people who see their supervisor as the main source of energy."

Science and practice

Edelbroek has already had the opportunity to highlight the findings from his research at conferences such as the European Association of Work and Organizational Psychology Congress in Turin, Work and Family Researchers Network Conference in New York, and the Academy of Management Conference in Boston. "There I had the opportunity to brainstorm with academics about my research, as well as with executives from innovative companies such as Google and Pixar." In addition to his position at Google, Edelbroek is eager to continue doing research. "I really enjoy connecting science to practice. For example, I am curious about the influence of diversity on the functioning of teams. I would also like to delve further into AI and how to incorporate 'soft skills'. But first I will focus on my new role at Google. Then I can put my knowledge into practice right away!"

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