Given recent prominent ethical scandals (e.g. Tesla, Uber) and the increasing demand for ethical management, the importance of business ethics has recently surged. One area that needs further research regards how ethical leaders can foster followers’ organizational commitment. Drawing upon social exchange theory, the current research proposes that ethical leadership relates to follower affective and normative commitment through perceived organizational support (POS). Moreover, based on self-determination theory, we expected follower psychological empowerment to positively moderate the relationship between ethical leadership and commitment components.
Data were collected using a three-wave study among employees from multiple organizations (N = 297) in Canada. Structural equations modeling and bootstrapping analyses were applied to test the hypotheses.
The results showed that ethical leadership was positively related to follower affective and normative commitment through POS. Furthermore, the relationship between ethical leadership and POS was stronger at high levels of empowerment. This moderating effect extended to the indirect relationship between ethical leadership and commitment components.
This study counts among the few investigations that have examined the mechanisms linking ethical leadership to followers’ organizational commitment and boundary conditions associated with this relationship. Moreover, our findings were obtained while controlling for transformational leadership, which highlights the incremental validity of ethical leadership.
Funding: This study was funded by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (grant number #435-2017-0134) to Christian Vandenberghe.
Conflict of interest: The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Kim, D. and Vandenberghe, C. (2021), "Ethical leadership and organizational commitment: the dual perspective of social exchange and empowerment", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 42 No. 6, pp. 976-987. https://doi.org/10.1108/LODJ-11-2020-0479
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