This week’s articles consider the role of morals, spirituality and incentives on ethical leadership.

Ethical leadership with both “moral person” and “moral manager” aspects
The importance of ethical leadership in organisations has been increasingly recognised, especially as a shield against unethical employee behaviours and corporate misconducts. Ethical leadership has been theorised to include two aspects: “moral person” and “moral manager.”

This conceptualisation resonates well with Chinese teachings of Confucius on leadership and management—namely xiuji (cultivating oneself) and anren (bringing the good to others). Based on the theoretical framework of ethical leadership, the authors develop and validate a new ethical leadership measure (ELM).

Through qualitative studies (i.e., face-to-face interviews, open-ended surveys, and literature review) and five quantitative studies, the authors establish the reliability and convergent, discriminant, and predictive validities of the ELM in a Chinese context. In addition, using a US sample, the authors find that the ELM has partial measurement invariance across Chinese and American contexts.

Weichun Zhu, Xiaoming Zheng, Hongwei He, Gang Wang and Xi Zhang. 2019. Ethical Leadership with Both “Moral Person” and “Moral Manager” Aspects: Scale Development and Cross-Cultural Validation.
Journal of Business Ethics, 158(2), 547–565.


The effects of spirituality and moral intensity on ethical business decisions
We present a cross-sectional study of ethical decision-making correlated with spirituality and utilising moral intensity as a moderator for workers in the Southeastern United States (N = 117).

This study presents spirituality as an individual variable and moral intensity as a situational variable along with ethical decision-making to examine the interaction of these factors in moral dilemmas. Utilising previously validated instruments for ethical decision-making and individual spirituality, the authors find that workers with relatively high measured spirituality made less ethical decisions compared to workers with relatively lower measures of spirituality.

Further, the authors find that the introduction of high moral intensity as a situational variable does not moderate the observed correlation between spirituality and ethical decision-making. This research supports the conceptual nature of the Interactionist Theory by presenting in a single study both individual and situational variables in ethical decision-making.

Stephen E. Anderson and Jodine M. Burchell. 2019. The Effects of Spirituality and Moral Intensity on Ethical Business Decisions: A Cross-Sectional Study.
Journal of Business Ethics, available online first at:


Managerial efficiency, corporate social performance, and corporate financial performance
Managers face an ethical dilemma in the allocation of scarce resources to corporate social responsibility (CSR) because the underlying managerial incentives behind such CSR spending can range from pure altruism to complete financial orientation.

Despite the importance of the managerial role in implementing CSR, prior studies generally have treated the role of managers as an exogenous factor. This study builds on recent studies on the managerial characteristics in studies on CSR by examining how managerial efficiency influences the outcomes of CSR.

Using a newly developed measure of managerial efficiency, the authors find that, on average, managerial efficiency is positively associated with a subsequent change in corporate social performance (CSP), although the association is weak in the level of total CSP. The authors find that efficient managers are more likely to engage in the product-related CSR that directly connects to corporate financial performance (CFP) but are less likely to engage in environment-related CSR.

The authors also find that CSP is positively associated with CFP with efficient managers. The findings contribute to management and other stakeholders’ understanding of the association of CSR to its outcomes, CSP and/or CFP, which is hinged by the indispensable moderating role of managerial efficiency.

Seong Y. Cho and Cheol Lee. 2019. Managerial Efficiency, Corporate Social Performance, and Corporate Financial Performance.
Journal of Business Ethics, 158(2), 467–486.


Managerial responses to incentive-driven and goal-induced employee behaviour
Management plays an important role in reinforcing ethics in organisations. To support this aim, managers must use incentive and goal programs in ethical ways. This study examines experimentally the potential ethical costs associated with incentive-driven and goal-induced employee behaviour from a managerial perspective.

In a quasi-experimental setting, 243 MBA students with significant professional work experience evaluated a hypothetical employee’s ethical behaviour under incentive pay systems modelled on a business case. In the role of the employee’s manager, participants evaluated the ethicality of the employee’s incentive-driven and goal-induced ethical/unethical behaviour and the outcomes of behaviour, with consequences that were either favourable or unfavourable to the organisation.

The results indicated that participants discounted the ethical considerations of incentive-driven and goal-induced behaviour when consequences were favourable to the organisation. Participants’ morals and outcome orientations were also significantly related to their ethical judgments and intentions to intervene. The implications of these findings for research and practice are discussed.

Gary M. Fleischman, Eric N. Johnson, Kenton B. Walker & Sean R. Valentine. 2019. Ethics Versus Outcomes: Managerial Responses to Incentive-Driven and Goal-Induced Employee Behavior.
Journal of Business Ethics, 158(4), 951–967.


Satisfied with the job, but not with the boss
Setting out to understand the effects of positive moral emotions in leadership, this research examines the consequences of leaders’ expressions of gratitude and pride for their followers. In two experimental vignette studies (N = 261; N = 168) and a field study (N = 294), leaders’ gratitude expressions showed a positive effect and leaders’ pride expressions showed a negative effect on followers’ ascriptions of leader selfishness.

Thereby, leaders’ gratitude expression indirectly led to higher follower satisfaction with and OCB towards the leader, while leaders’ pride expressions indirectly reduced satisfaction with and OCB towards the leader. Furthermore, leaders’ expressions of gratitude indirectly reduced followers’ intentions to leave the leader, while leaders’ expressions of pride indirectly fuelled them.

Although ascriptions of selfishness consistently influenced these leader outcomes more strongly than comparable organisational outcomes, results on organisational outcomes were mixed. While leaders’ expressions of gratitude led, as expected, to higher job satisfaction and lower turnover intentions, leaders’ expressions of pride showed positive relations with both OCB towards the organisation and intentions to leave the organisation.

The authors discuss the theoretical implications of leaders’ expressions of positive moral emotions as signals of outcome attributions, as well as leaders’ selfishness and practical implications that help leaders build followers’ satisfaction and positive leader–follower relationships.

Lisa Ritzenhöfer, Prisca Brosi, Matthias Spörrle & Isabell M. Welpe. 2019. Satisfied with the Job, But Not with the Boss: Leaders’ Expressions of Gratitude and Pride Differentially Signal Leader Selfishness, Resulting in Differing Levels of Followers’ Satisfaction.
Journal of Business Ethics, 158(4), 1185–1202.


Boundary conditions of ethical leadership
It is widely accepted that ethical leadership is beneficial for the organisation, the leader, and followers. Yet, little has been said about potential limitations of ethical leadership, particularly boundary conditions involving the same person perceived to display ethical leadership. Drawing on conservation of resources theory, the authors argue that supervisor-induced hindrance stress and job hindrance stress are factors linked to the supervisor and work environment that may limit the positive impact of ethical leadership on employee deviance and turnover intentions.

Specifically, the authors expect that high levels of hindrance stress drain resources, specifically perceptions of social support, by inhibiting the completion of work, particularly in combination with the high expectations of ethical leaders. The authors test the model across two time-lagged field studies (N = 310 and N = 299). The results demonstrate that supervisor-induced hindrance stress mitigates some of the beneficial impact of ethical leadership and that job hindrance stress further strains these relationships.

Overall, the results suggest that both forms of hindrance stress jointly impact the effectiveness of ethical leadership on important outcomes, and do so partly because of their influence on perceived social support. The authors discuss theoretical contributions to the ethical leadership and stress bodies of literature, as well as practical implications for managers and organisations wishing to develop ethical leaders.

Matthew J. Quade, Sara J. Perry & Emily M. Hunter. 2019. Boundary Conditions of Ethical Leadership: Exploring Supervisor-Induced and Job Hindrance Stress as Potential Inhibitors.
Journal of Business Ethics, 158(4), 1165–1184.


Spiritual leadership, leader integrity, relational energy, and job performance
Past research suggests that spiritual leadership plays a pivotal role in enhancing employee job performance, yet we have little understanding of how and when spiritual leadership enhances employee job performance.

The present study explores how and when spiritual leadership promotes job performance by examining relational energy as a mediator and leader integrity and relational energy differentiation as boundary conditions. We tested the theoretical model with data gathered across three phases over 12 months from 497 employees and their supervisors in 108 groups.

Results showed that the positive relationship between spiritual leadership and job performance was mediated by relational energy. Moreover, we found that leader integrity amplified the mediated relationship between spiritual leadership and employee job performance via relational energy. In contrast, relational energy differentiation weakened this mediated relationship.

Fu Yang, Jun Liu, Zhen Wang & Yucheng Zhang. 2019. Feeling Energized: A Multilevel Model of Spiritual Leadership, Leader Integrity, Relational Energy, and Job Performance.
Journal of Business Ethics, 158(4), 983–997.