Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Have you ever had a leader who creates a lot of innovative programs – but seems to bend the rules or even sometimes outright break them? This penchant for creativity coupled with unethical actions has actually been confirmed by researchers to be a sign of creativity (in a meta-study of 6,783 participants across 36 studies from 19 articles).
Unethical behavior in creative types may also be a sin of that creativity. And we as leaders need to help the creatives we know overcome it.
Read this article to understand the thinking of creative types.
More creative people tend to also be more unethical, according to a meta-analysis of 36 studies.
by Mane Kara-Yakoubian, PsyPost.org January 1, 2022.
According to a meta-analysis published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, creativity and unethicality are positively related. The researchers argue that some studies have failed to find this association due to the use of self-report measures in assessing unethical behavior.
There are several theoretical explanations for the positive relation between creativity and unethicality. The first is that “creative individuals tend to have a strong sense of entitlement when anticipating the high value of their future realization, which makes them more willing to cross the lines to reach their goal.” When engaging in a creative task, they foresee the benefits of their product, prompting the legitimization of unethical behaviors that can facilitate attaining this goal. “In other words, creative individuals tend to think that the end justifies the means,” the authors write.
The second argument is that creativity helps generate justifications for unethical deeds, in turn, increasing the likelihood of engaging in such behaviors. Creative individuals tend to be more skilled in justifying unethicality given their greater cognitive flexibility, which allows them to approach problems from numerous perspectives.
The third case for this positive correlation is that both creativity and unethicality “involve rule breaking and nonconformist processes.” From this perspective, these constructs are positively associated because they involve the same cognitive processes.