The mediation between participative leadership and employee exploratory innovation: Examining intermediate knowledge mechanisms

Purpose – This study examines the role of intermediate knowledge mechanisms on the participative leadership–employee exploratory innovation relationship using a distal mediation model. Design/methodology/approach – Deploying a time-lagged questionnaire method implemented over four business quarters, data is generated from 1600 responses in R&D units of Taiwanese technology firms. Findings – The structural equation modeling results reveal that (1) participative leadership is positively related to employee exploratory innovation; (2) coworker knowledge and (3) absorptive capacity partially mediate the relationship between participative leadership and employee exploratory innovation independently; and, (4) coworker knowledge sharing in combination with absorptive capacity partially mediates this relationship. Originality/value – The findings contribute new knowledge on the relationship between participative leadership and employee exploratory innovation by uncovering intermediate knowledge mechanisms that augment this relationship.