Frontiers | The Effect of Spiritual Leadership on Employee Effectiveness: An Intrinsic Motivation Perspective


With increasing uncertainty and new challenges facing organizations in dynamic environments (Tyssen et al., 2014), an enormous number of business managers are focused on creating a clear organizational vision and to form favorable organizational cultures, and to inspire the inner motivation of employees to increase the organization’s competitive advantage (Chen and Li, 2013; Chen et al., 2013). One approach that embodies such management patterns is spiritual leadership, which involves vision, hope/belief, and altruistic love to motivate oneself and others to have a sense of spiritual survival (Chen et al., 2013). This leadership style points the way that could inspire employees to go beyond role obligation for the greater good of the group. Although much attention has been drawn to the significant impact of spiritual leadership in facilitating organizational development and transformation, our knowledge of the impact of spiritual leadership at the individual level is very limited. In this article, we examine how spiritual leadership affects employee effectiveness while reviewing other related leadership styles such as moral leadership, benevolent leadership, and ethical leadership.

The theory of spiritual leadership was developed within the framework of the intrinsic developed a motivational model (Brat, 2003). Intrinsic motivation refers to an inherent tendency to seek new things and challenges, to expand one’s abilities, and to experience and learn (Ryan and Deci, 2000), which is the prototypical manifestation of the human propensity for learning and creativity (Ryan, 1995 ). Various studies have confirmed that intrinsic motivation is associated with better learning, creativity and achievement. Some studies have shown that intrinsically motivated individuals have more interest and self-confidence than externally motivated individuals, which in turn manifests itself in increased achievement and creativity (Valas and Slovik, 1993; Sheldon et al., 1997). Other studies have shown that intrinsically motivated individuals engage in self-determined behaviors, such as B. Knowledge-sharing behaviors and innovative work behaviors (Devloo et al., 2015; Tangaraja et al., 2015). Finally, intrinsically motivated individuals engage in tasks primarily because the task is self-gratifying (Yousaf et al., 2015).

Furthermore, spiritual leadership theory aims to promote an intrinsically motivated learner to create organization (Fry et al., 2005). Consistent with intrinsic motivation theory, spiritual leadership is seen as an effective approach to foster higher levels of organizational productivity, team creativity, and organizational learning ability (Jurkiewicz and Giacalone, 2004; Aydin and Ceylan, 2009; Chen and Yang, 2012) . In addition, spiritual leaders take care of active engagement in the workplace so that people experience meaning in life, which in turn encourages the growth and development of followers. In the process of transformation of a learning organization and employee growth, intrinsically motivated followers inevitably tend to be highly efficient in fulfilling their mission and to actively participate in knowledge sharing and the implementation of novel ideas (Andrews and Delahaye, 2000; Fraj et al., 2015). . However, the relationship between spiritual leadership and task accomplishment, innovation behavior, and knowledge-sharing behavior is rarely examined at an individual level in existing research.

Therefore, this article aims to assess the effectiveness of spiritual leadership at an individual level, based on the intrinsic motivation theory and spiritual leadership theory. A holistic view of leadership effectiveness considers both the leader’s impact on employees and the achievement of goals (Reave, 2005). Current research empirically examines whether spiritual leadership positively impacts two categories of employee effectiveness, follower behavior (e.g., knowledge-sharing behavior and innovation behavior) and execution of an assigned goal (e.g., task completion).

However, Anderson and Sun (2017) suggested that previous empirical studies of spiritual leadership did not control for other styles of leadership, and it is not known whether spiritual leadership adds predictive variance over other styles. We argue that when researchers examine the effectiveness of spiritual leadership, ethical leadership may be a plausible alternative explanation. Reave (2005) suggested that spiritual leadership is closely related to ethical leadership and requires a moral character and climate, and such spiritual motives might drive one to become an ethical leader (Brown and Treviño, 2006). In addition, there is much overlap between the two theoretical models. The theory of spiritual leadership includes ethical aspects (e.g. ethical considerations, integrity and trust) and shows that spirituality cannot exist without ethical value (Kuhnert and Lewis, 1987).Therefore, the second purpose of this paper is to rule out alternative explanations for ethical leadership and to focus on whether spiritual leadership adds predictive variance beyond these other styles.

Our research makes several contributions to the existing literature. First, although previous research has shown that spiritual leadership is positively associated with beneficial organizational outcomes, little is known about the relationship between spiritual leadership and task accomplishment, knowledge-sharing behavior, and innovation behavior at the individual level. Our research will provide early evidence of how spiritual leadership is linked to positive employee behavior and outcomes. Furthermore, our study examines an alternative model (ethical leadership) as an explanation for our results while providing evidence for the robustness of the effect. In this way, current research enriches our understanding of spiritual leadership theory and intrinsic motivation theory, which is expected to drive relevant research and practice in the field of spiritual leadership. The overall theoretical model is shown in Figure 1.

Theory and Hypotheses

Spiritual Leadership Theory

Fry (2003) incorporates spirituality, a long neglected aspect, into leadership theories and finally proposed the concept of spiritual leadership, which emphasizes the intrinsic motivation of oneself and others through the leader’s values, attitudes, and behaviors. Conceptually, spiritual leadership includes three main components, vision, hope/belief and altruistic love, as the respective values, attitudes and behaviors of the leader. Vision refers to a meaningful future that leads employees to feel an intrinsic self-worth and purpose in life. Hope/Faith reflects the leader’s confidence in the attainability of the vision, high values ​​of which can inspire subordinates to accomplish the organization’s mission. Altruistic love exhibits a set of behaviors on the part of leaders that value mutual caring and respect and create a sense of being understood and valued by organizational members, on the basis of which a positive organizational culture is likely to be forged. Vision in the spiritual leadership model gives inner meaning to life (Chen and Yang, 2012) and is spiritually grounded when employees have a sense of hope/belief that the shared vision will lead them to achieve future goals (Fry et al., 2005; Fry and Cohen, 2009). At its best, this feeling is the intrinsic reward for employees to create strong beliefs and encourage the pursuit of a meaningful organizational vision (Chen and Yang, 2012).

Although the theory of spiritual leadership is deep in the rooted in Western culture, several scholars have argued for the transferability of the leadership construct and organizational practice to the Confucian cultural context. For example, a high level of spirituality among executives in South Korea is positively associated with the achievement of organizational goals (Kang et al., 2017). In addition, spiritual leadership offers a unique approach to protecting corporate resources and reducing subordinate misconduct in the context of Confucianism (Wang et al., 2017).

Spiritual Leadership and Task Fulfillment

Task performance involves a specific pattern of behavior focused on accomplishing a job task and makes a unique contribution to a manager’s assessment of an employee’s overall value to the organization (Motowidlo and Van Scotter, 1994; Conway, 1999; Johnson, 2001). There are reasons for the positive correlations between spiritual leadership and individual task accomplishment. First, spiritual leadership is seen as a powerful tool to boost employees’ intrinsic motivation. Spiritual leadership not only meets the psychological needs of leaders and followers (Guillén et al., 2015), but also unlocks fundamental needs for spiritual survival, which include spiritual values ​​and managerial practices, such as: Brat, 2003). Both interest and basic psychological needs are critical, defining characteristics of intrinsic motivation, and intrinsically motivated behaviors are a function of the psychological needs and interests that are manifested through autonomy, competence, and connectedness in the workplace (Deci and Ryan, 2000; Ryan and Deci, 2000). Additionally, intrinsic motivation is more likely to thrive in contexts characterized by feelings of warmth and caring (Deci and Ryan, 2000). The purpose of spiritual leadership is to intrinsically motivate followers by practicing spiritual values ​​and showing altruistic love in the workplace. Ultimately, the goal is to encourage high productivity (Fry, 2003; Fry et al., 2005; Fry and Cohen, 2009). Various studies suggest that intrinsic motivation is associated with better performance and better learning (Grant, 2008; Cerasoli and Ford, 2014; Menges et al., 2017).

Second, followers of leaders with spiritual guidance are more likely to perform better because of the shared and clear vision. Spiritual leadership involves motivating followers by articulating a long-term challenge and a different future. Clear and sufficiently challenging goals are more likely to improve an individual’s task performance (Locke et al., 1981). Specific and challenging goals lead to higher outputs than those that are not assigned specific goals (Locke et al., 1981; Corgnet et al., 2015). Spiritual guidance instills faith/hope in both a spiritually based vision and the process of creating a vision for followers. As a role model, the confident attitude inspires followers to show their tenacity and strive for excellence by trying their best to accomplish challenging tasks (Yang et al., 2017). In summary, we propose the following hypothesis:

Hypothesis 1: Spiritual leadership is positively associated with the fulfillment of tasks by employees.

Spiritual leadership and knowledge-sharing behavior

Knowledge-sharing behavior is defined as a series of actions in which individuals share and disseminate valuable information with others within organizations (Bartol and Srivastava, 2002). These behaviors represent a process of mutual exchange of relevant information and imply synergistic collaboration between individuals working toward a common goal (Boland and Tenkasi, 1995). Empirical studies have shown that leadership is an important factor influencing attitudes and behaviors in knowledge sharing (Gagné, 2009). Consistently, Bock and Kim (2002) found that leaders who expected to improve subordinate relationships and recognize employees’ contribution to organizational performance were positively associated with behavior sharing. Spiritual leadership is a type of leadership characterized by the defense of integrity, kindness, teamwork, knowledge, wholeness, and connectedness (Aydin and Ceylan, 2009). The purpose of spiritual leadership is to paint a desirable vision and value congruence across the strategic plan (Fry, 2003), and this shared vision vividly paints a picture that followers should solve problems and share valuable knowledge to achieve a common goal achieve when they encounter complex challenges. Professional knowledge-sharing is seen as a personally rewarding achievement for employees who have internalized the company vision into their value system (De Vries et al., 2006).

Additionally, knowledge-sharing behaviors are a type of intended behaviors that bear resemblance to various voluntary behaviors (Frey, 1993), such as prosocial behavior and organizational citizenship behavior. This type of behavior is likely motivated by intrinsic motivation (Wang and Hou, 2015). Various research findings suggest that intrinsic motivation is associated with effective information sharing and entrepreneurial skills (Brammer et al., 2015; Razmerita et al., 2016). Altruism is highly intrinsically motivated by the intrinsic joy of helping others (Hung et al., 2011). Similarly, recent research has confirmed that a person’s altruistic intention predicts knowledge-sharing behavior (Matzler et al., 2008) because it is fun or personally meaningful to them. Spiritual leadership theory is fundamentally rooted in the intrinsic motivation model, which aligns with intrinsic motivation to help others, establishing an organizational culture that embraces the value of altruistic love. Therefore, we claim that spiritual leadership is likely to encourage followers to exhibit knowledge-sharing behaviors.

Although this claim remains untested to date, a study by Aydin and Ceylan (2009) provided some support for the influence of spiritual leadership on knowledge sharing behavior. In the study, they found that organizational learning ability was significantly positively correlated with each of the spiritual leadership dimensions. In addition, the extent to which individuals acquire knowledge and share information are key dimensions of organizational learning capacity. We therefore put forward the following hypothesis:

Hypothesis 2: Spiritual leadership is positively related to knowledge-sharing behavior of employees.

Spiritual leadership and innovation behavior

Innovation behavior relates to the intentional creation, introduction and application of new ideas within a work role, group or organization (De Jong and Den Hartog, 2010). Researchers have viewed leadership as critical to innovative processes (Rosing et al., 2011; Donate and de Pablo, 2015), but to the best of our knowledge there is still a lack of research showing a clear link between spiritual leadership and innovative behaviors . Organizations rich in spirituality generate creativity among team members as spirituality is a key element of creativity and innovation processes.Spiritual leadership is an effective approach to fostering spirituality in the workplace (Fry, 2008) and ultimately encouraging innovative behaviors in employees. Spiritual leaders, in particular, value followers’ meaningfulness at work and motivate them to go above and beyond so that followers have a sense of self-transcendence. This experience is an important precursor of innovative behavior (Jung et al., 2003). In addition, spiritual leaders are characterized by integrity, honesty, altruism, and genuine concern for others (Fry, 2003; Reave, 2005). These qualities are typically embedded in spiritual leaders who are concerned with the development of their followers. The focus on developing followers is a result of meeting their basic psychological need for security. Adherents who see themselves as important in the workplace and have a strong sense of psychological security are more likely to develop new ideas and experiment with the ideas (Hogan and Coote, 2014).

Based on spiritual leadership theory, developed spiritual leadership requires a compelling vision that articulates the pathway to realizing employees’ ideas in the workplace, as providing a shared vision is believed to inspire innovative behavior (Weng et al., 2015). In the process of vision creation, spiritual leadership involves the subordination of the followers’ own goals and the most desirable elements to the organization’s collective greater future, while maintaining the followers’ trust and belief in the organization’s vision by sharing their hope/belief strengthen. Spiritual leaders directly induce cognitive-based trust and affect-based trust through the process of identifying vision and motivating belief/hope, which in turn increases followers’ intrinsic motivation to implement creative ideas to pursue the organization’s vision (Yoshida et al. , 2014). In addition, spiritual leaders are committed to establishing a sustainable organizational culture based on altruistic love (Fry, 2003). Such a culture focuses on follower growth and evokes positive emotions (Yoshida et al., 2014). Positive emotions, in particular, can encourage followers to explore new problem-solving ideas (Joiner et al., 2001). Numerous studies have shown that positive emotions inspire innovative behaviors. Individuals who experience positive emotions, such as joy and respect, tend to pursue novel problem-solving methods (Rose et al., 2016). Therefore, we proposed the following:

Hypothesis 3: Spiritual leadership is positively related to the innovative behavior of employees.

Materials and methods

Participants and processes

In collaboration with several north China-based energy companies, participants in the current study were recruited by selecting Outstanding Annual Supervisors within the energy industry who were formal employees of two types of companies, including state-owned enterprises and non-state enterprises . The primary selection criteria for Annual Outstanding Supervisors were (1) those with high ethical standards, (2) those endowed with leadership competency based on the job requirements, and (3) excellence in the departments the candidate served. A necessary part of the election program was for the candidate’s subordinates to evaluate the candidate’s leadership skills. Thus, it was a unique opportunity to obtain multi-source data from each of the participating supervisors. The questionnaire was designed to be divided into two groups: one group for superiors (candidates) and the other group for immediate reports.

After receiving approval from management, we collected data on two different dates with a 4-month interval. At the first time point (T1), the candidates’ immediate subordinates rated their perceptions of their superiors’ spiritual leadership, and at this time control variables (e.g., moral leadership, benevolent leadership, type of organization, and demographics) were measured. At the second time point (T2), we distributed ethical leadership questionnaires to the same participants at T1, and supervisors were asked to rate their subordinates’ task performance, knowledge-sharing behavior, and innovative behavior. Before registering for the survey, participants were assured of anonymity and confidentiality. In total, by matching subordinate business identification numbers to supervisors and eliminating the illegible and unmatched questionnaires, the final sample included a total of 306 pairs in 26 teams. Team characteristics are: the range of team members from 5 to 21 (the average team member = 11.85); 17 out of 26 teams belong to state-owned companies (65.39%); and 9 teams belong to NGOs (34.61%).

Also among supervisors (n=26, with an effective response rate of 92.85%): 92, 3% were male (n = 24) and mostly between 35 and 45 years old (n = 21, 80.70%). Also about 76.92% of respondents reported having more than 8 years of work experience (n = 20) and over 69% of respondents had a bachelor’s degree (n = 18) . ). Of the 280 subjects (with an effective response rate of 89.74%), 87.5% were male (n = 245) and most were between 26 and 35 years old (n i>=253, 90.35%). They had an average seniority of 4 years and 70.71% had a junior college degree (n=198).


Spiritual Leadership

Spiritual leadership was assessed by the Spiritual Leadership Questionnaire by Fry (2008) at T1. It was a multidimensional construct with three parts: (a) 5 items for vision (α = 0.92), (b) 5 items for hope/belief (α = 0.92), (c) 7 items for altruistic love ( α = 0.85) . Examples of items are: “I understand and am committed to the vision of my organization” (vision); “set challenging goals for my work because I have confidence in my company and want us to be successful.” (Hope Faith); “The leaders in my organization dare to stand up for their people.” (Altruistic love). The reliability of the scale was 0.93.

Ethical leadership

The ethical leadership of supervisors was measured by the Ethical Leadership Questionnaire with a 10-point scale, which was developed by Brown et al . (2005) at T2. Sample items are ‘My manager talks about the importance of ethics’ and ‘My manager gives an example of how to do things right when it comes to ethics’. The answer options ranged from 1 “do not agree at all” to 7 “agree completely”. Cronbach’s alpha on the scale was 0.74.

Moral leadership and benevolent leadership

Paternalistic leadership was assessed using the Paternalistic Leadership Questionnaire by Cheng et al. (2004) at T1. It was a multi-dimensional construct comprising three parts: (a) Moral Leadership (α = 0.84), (b) Benevolent Leadership (α = 0.78), (c) Authoritarian Leadership (α = 0.87). Sample items are “My boss is like a family member when he/she gets along with us” and “My boss doesn’t use me for personal gain”. The answer options ranged from 1 “do not agree at all” to 5 “agree completely”. .” Cronbach’s alpha of the scale was 0.83.

Task performance

We measured task performance using a 4-point scale developed by Fan and Zheng (1997) at T2 became. This scale is the most common measure of task performance (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.88) in the Chinese context. The items were rated on a 5-point scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Example items include “One of the best people in the department (organization)”.

Knowledge Sharing Behavior

We evaluated knowledge sharing behavior using a 5-point scale developed by Ruan measured ( 1997) in the Chinese context at T2. Cronbach’s alpha of this overall scale is 0.89. The items were rated on a 5-point scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Example items are “Often takes the initiative to share knowledge with peers.”

Innovation Behavior

We measured knowledge innovation behavior using a 6-point scale developed by Scott and Bruce (1994) at T2. Cronbach’s alpha of this overall scale is 0.88. The items were rated on a 5-point scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Example items are “Often takes the initiative to share knowledge with colleagues.”

Control Variables

Previous studies have found that paternalistic leadership has deep cultural roots in China. Consistent with the core values ​​of Confucianism, paternalistic leadership emphasizes restraining one’s behavior through moral norms (Cheng et al., 2014). A tremendous amount of research on the outcomes of paternalistic leadership shows that employee performance was significantly influenced by moral and benevolent leadership, rather than authoritarian leadership (Zhang et al., 2015). Additionally, benevolent leadership and moral leadership were strongly associated with positive outcomes, such as: Accordingly, several control variables (e.g., moral leadership and benevolent leadership) were introduced into our analysis and are designed to minimize the impact of other exogenous variables. In addition, the participants in our research come from government and non-government companies. Research has shown that the extent to which leadership effectiveness is applied can vary across organizational types (Liu et al., 2003; Hooijberg and Choi, 2007). Therefore, this team feature was also introduced into our analysis.


First, we used Pearson’s correlation tests and independent-samples t-tests to determine the correlations between the study variables and whether they exist to be examined according to demographic variables (i.e. age, seniority, gender, level of education and type of company). The results of the correlation tests are presented in Table 1. Additionally, t tests of independent samples showed that spiritual leadership (t = -2.67, p01) and ethical leadership (t = 14.29, pThe results (see Table 2) of the multilevel confirmatory factor analysis showed that the indices of fit of the four-factor model fitted the data well. In addition, the four-factor model fitted the data better than any of the constrained measurement models [336,88This study is probably our most significant contribution to the spiritual leadership literature. Extending our application of these processes to spiritual guidance at the personal level, we illustrate the essential robustness of this theory for understanding spiritual guidance. To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first to examine spiritual leadership as a more significant predictor of follower effectiveness compared to other leadership approaches. This study reiterates the claim that there is a need for empirical investigation of discrimination and incremental effects of spiritual leadership and other related leadership theories (Fry et al., 2011) and provides an answer to the question posed by Anderson and Sun (2017). , namely whether Spiritual leadership adds predictive variance beyond these other styles.

Spiritual leadership has significant implications for follower effectiveness when we control for ethical leadership, benevolent leadership, and moral leadership. From today’s perspective, spiritual leadership is not only the highest level of ethical imprinting, but also includes value-based and spirituality-based aspects (Chen and Yang, 2012; Hackett and Wang, 2012). Fry (2003) explained two elements necessary for spiritual leadership: creating a vision to articulate where one is meant to be and establishing a favorable organizational culture based on altruistic love that creates a sense of acceptance and appreciation. Spiritual leadership emphasizes leaders’ unconditional care and love for others, while also considering individual growth and development. Followers in workplaces that advocate altruistic love are more likely to feel psychologically secure about sharing knowledge and skills and then developing and implementing new ideas. On the other hand, there is a high degree of consensus among practitioners and academics that vision is important to guide and motivate employees (Fry et al., 2017). Vision in the spiritual leadership model gives inner meaning and purpose to life and is spiritually grounded (Fry, 2003). A universally accepted and transcendent vision motivates and inspires followers to improve their performance (Fry et al., 2011) and encourages creative ideas (Parameshwar, 2005). Additionally, hope/belief in organizations’ vision keeps adherents looking to the future and provides the desire and positive expectation that drives efforts to pursue the vision (Fry et al., 2017). Therefore, spiritual leadership is positively associated with task accomplishment, knowledge-sharing behavior, and innovation behavior.

These results are consistent with intrinsic motivation theory. Defined as a major source of happiness and vitality throughout life (Ryan and Deci, 2000), intrinsic motivation refers to engaging in activities that the individual finds interesting and enjoyable in and of themselves (Deci and Ryan, 2000) and not through separable consequences such as reward and recognition (Presslee et al., 2013). Numerous studies have confirmed that intrinsic motivation is associated with knowledge sharing, achievement, and innovative work behaviors (Presslee et al., 2013; Wang and Hou, 2015), which are not only all expected external and tangible rewards, but explicit discipline decreases intrinsic motivation (Ryan and Deci, 2000). Spiritual leadership, which is rooted in intrinsic motivation theory and encompasses values, attitudes, and behaviors necessary to intrinsically motivate followers toward a purpose in the workplace (Fry, 2003), intrinsically motivates followers to do something meaningful, such as doing something meaningful. B. better task performance, knowledge sharing and the implementation of new ideas.

Our research also advances existing knowledge about the positive relationship between spiritual leadership and employee effectiveness. Based on spiritual leadership theory and an intrinsic motivational perspective, we found that spiritual leadership is positively related to employee task accomplishment, knowledge-sharing behavior, and innovation behavior. These results were consistent with previous findings (Jurkiewicz and Giacalone, 2004; Aydin and Ceylan, 2009; Chen et al., 2013). However, most empirical support for spiritual leadership has focused more on organizational outcomes, such as organizational productivity and engagement, and as an effective approach to organizational transformation (Fry et al., 2005; Fry, 2008), but our study provides more support for application of the Theory at the individual level.

Practical implications

Our study promotes the idea that practicing spiritual leadership is important to employee task accomplishment, knowledge-sharing behavior, and innovation behavior . First, it is recommended that organizations emphasize spiritual leadership during the recruitment process and select individuals with characteristics and values ​​that predispose them to spiritual leadership.In addition, the organization should conduct a comprehensive assessment process to identify candidates with high spiritual intensity.

Second, organizations should organize leadership training programs based on approaches designed to develop individual spirituality. These organizations should form an organizational culture embedded in altruistic love and an effective and commonly accepted vision developed through mutual communication. Hope/faith can be imparted in the vision to intrinsically inspire leaders and followers to persevere in achieving challenging goals. Organizations should regularly assess whether employees understand the vision and feel genuinely cared for by leaders.

In addition, organizations should deepen and improve understanding of the connotation and implications of spiritual leadership by regularly evaluating the behavior of their leaders 360° feedback evaluation and through frequent discussion of the requirements for spiritual leaders in relation to the development of competency models, the qualification management system and the evaluation of leadership cadres. This process will cause leaders to transform into spiritual leaders through organizational requirements.

Limitations and Future Research

Despite these contributions, some limitations in our work should be noted that shed light on the future can throw research directions. First, we tested our hypotheses while controlling for possible confounding effects of moral leadership, benevolent leadership, and ethical leadership. However, it is still questionable whether the effect of spiritual guidance on employee effectiveness can be generalized to other samples, since we only collected data in China and specifically in the energy industry. Data collected from multiple countries and industries would increase the generalizability of our results. Therefore, we anticipate that future research will validate our findings with samples from other industries and countries.

Second, a limitation of our study is that we explored the potential mediating variables and conditional effects among the independent variables and employee effectiveness have not tested variables. A mediator variable can be used to clarify the nature of the relationship between the independent variable and the dependent variable (Hayes and Scharkow, 2013). In our research, there are significant direct effects of spiritual leadership, but not ethical leadership, on task accomplishment and innovation behavior. In theory, scholars have claimed that ethical principles are a key attribute of spiritual leadership (Brown and Treviño, 2006). Therefore, according to Baron and Kenny (1986), it is valuable in future studies to examine the mediating role of spiritual leadership in the relationship of ethical leadership to task accomplishment and innovative behavior.

Third, a limitation of our study is that we have not further explored the impact of sub-dimensions of spiritual leadership on employee effectiveness. Spiritual leadership includes three interacting dimensions, vision, hope/belief, and altruistic love (Fry, 2003). Although previous studies have shown that leaders’ altruistic love and a compelling spiritually grounded vision are the key dimensions of spiritual leadership that enhance spiritual well-being in organizations (Fry et al., 2011; Anderson and Sun, 2017). To the best of our knowledge, a lack of research has shown that different dimensions of spiritual leadership can have different effects on organizational and individual outcomes. Therefore, it is valuable to examine the impact of the spiritual leadership subdimension on individual and organizational outcomes in future studies to enrich our understanding of this leadership style.

Despite these limitations, this study makes several important contributions. To our knowledge, the current study represents the first attempt to examine the relationship between spiritual leadership and employee effectiveness outcomes by excluding the composite effects of ethical leadership, moral leadership, and benevolent leadership in one study. This study joins a growing body of research into executive spirituality and points to the importance of executive spirituality in fostering employee effectiveness.

Statement of Ethics

This study was conducted in Conducted in accordance with the recommendations of the Ethics Committee of the Ethics Committee of Henan University with written informed consent from all subjects. All subjects gave written informed consent in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki. The protocol was approved by the Ethics Committee of Henan University.

Author Contributions

TG contributed to the development of the theoretical framework, data analysis, organization and overall writing of the work. MW contributed to the editing and organization of the paper, as well as the overall design. YN and ZT contributed to the design, data analysis, and editing of the paper. SS and MW were busy drafting and critically revising the work.


This research was funded by grants from the National Social Science Foundation of China (13CGL068) and the Science and Technology Innovation Talents Support Program of Henan Province [number (2014)295]. ].

Conflict of Interest Statement

The authors declare that the research was conducted without commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.




Content Creator Zaid Butt joined Silsala-e-Azeemia in 2004 as student of spirituality. Mr. Zahid Butt is an IT professional, his expertise include “Web/Graphic Designer, GUI, Visualizer and Web Developer” PH: +92-3217244554

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