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The dual effects of task conflict on team creativity : Focusing on the role of team-focused transformational leadership

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The purpose of this paper is to explore the dual effects of task conflict on team creativity and the role of team-focused transformational leadership (TFL) as a key contingency in the task conflict–team creativity relationship.


Data were collected from 325 teams across ten large companies in South Korea. The study tested the hypothesized moderated mediation model using an SPSS macro (PROCESS, Hayes, 2008).


Results showed that task conflict is directly and positively related to team creativity and is negatively and indirectly related to team creativity via relationship conflict. Furthermore, the study found that team-focused TFL moderates all paths through which task conflict affects team creativity. Specifically, team-focused TFL enhances the positive direct effect of task conflict and alleviates the negative indirect effects of task conflict on team creativity.

Research limitations/implications

Although this study could not test the causal chains of the proposed relationships owing to a cross-sectional nature of data, the present research provides theoretical implications for the conflict, leadership and team creativity literatures. The study highlights the role of transformational leadership in the process through which team conflict is managed so as to increase team creativity.

Practical implications

To capitalize on the creativity-related benefits associated with task conflict, managers will need to pay attention to the role they can play and their leadership that emphasizes collective goals and identity. Managers and team leaders are also expected to intervene in conflict situations to minimize the harmful effect of task conflict that may take place owing to the association between task conflict and relationship conflict.

Social implications

The findings will have implications for any social contexts where people work together toward common goals. In such contexts, the study emphasizes the role of leadership in teams to use the creative potential associated with different opinions and values regarding what and how work to be completed.


The study’s examination of the dual paths through which task conflict affects team creativity brings insights into why the impact of task conflict on team creativity has been inconsistent or unclear in past research. This paper also articulates a leader’s role in teams in relation to managing team conflict to increase team creativity.

Keywords: Relationship conflict; Task conflict; Team creativity; Transformational leadership

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Business, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia 2: ILR School, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA 3: College of Business Administration, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea 4: Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia

Publication date: February 11, 2019

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