Original Research

The influence of ethical leadership and climate on employee work engagement

Nelson Gwamanda, Bright Mahembe
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 49 | a2108 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v49i0.2108 | © 2023 Bright Mahembe, Nelson Gwamanda | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 May 2023 | Published: 21 December 2023

About the author(s)

Nelson Gwamanda, Department of Industrial Psychology, Faculty of Economic Management Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Bellville, South Africa
Bright Mahembe, Department of Industrial Psychology, Faculty of Economic Management Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Bellville, South Africa

Abstract

Orientation: Ethical leadership is crucial in fostering work engagement among employees in organisations.

Research purpose: This study aimed to empirically validate a theoretical model explicating the structural relationships between ethical leadership, ethical climate and work engagement.

Motivation for the study: The central role of work engagement in sustaining competitive advantage calls for an analysis of the role of ethical leadership and climate in enhancing an engaged workforce.

Research approach/design and method: A non-probability convenience sample consisting of 304 participants was drawn from 10 selected private security companies.

Main findings: High levels of reliability were found, and the unidimensionality of the subscales was confirmed through exploratory factor analyses. A good fit with the data was found for the measurement models through confirmatory factor analysis. Structural equation modelling showed a reasonable fit for the structural model. Positive relationships were found between ethical leadership, climate and work engagement.

Practical/managerial implications: The findings emphasise the role of ethical leadership and climate in work engagement. Ethical leadership fosters work engagement if employees perceive their leaders as ethical and if there is provision of favourable, transparent policies and procedures.

Contribution/value-add: Ethical leadership alone may not be a sufficient condition for employee work engagement; other variables such as a positive ethical climate also play a role. The study suggests specific variables that may also combine with leadership to positively influence work engagement.


Keywords

Ethical leadership; work engagement; ethical climate; reliability; measurement model; goodness of fit; structural model; exploratory factor analysis; confirmatory factor analysis

JEL Codes

D23: Organizational Behavior • Transaction Costs • Property Rights

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

Metrics

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