Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 116, Issue 2, pp 441-455

First online:

How Ethical Leadership Influence Employees’ Innovative Work Behavior: A Perspective of Intrinsic Motivation

  • Tu YidongAffiliated withEconomics and Management School, Wuhan University
  • , Lu XinxinAffiliated withSchool of Labor and Human Resources, Renmin University of China Email author 

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Drawing on the cognitive evaluation theory, we proposed a homologous multilevel model to explore how ethical leadership influenced employees’ innovative work behavior through the mediation of intrinsic motivation at both group and individual level. With questionnaires rated by 302 employees from 34 work units of two companies in the mainland of China, we conducted multilevel analysis to examine our hypotheses. The results showed that individual innovative work behavior was positively related to both individual perception of ethical leadership and group ethical leadership, while individual intrinsic motivation mediated the two relationships. Moreover, group intrinsic motivation mediated the relationship between group ethical leadership and innovative work behavior. The theoretical and practical implications were further discussed.


Ethical leadership Innovative work behavior Intrinsic motivation Multilevel analysis