Empirical Research on Ethical Leadership and Knowledge Workers’ Innovative Behaviour: The Mediating Role of Job Autonomy


  • Hong Zhang
  • Muhammad Shahid Khan




Ethical Leadership, Job Autonomy, Knowledge Workers, Innovative Behaviour


Introduction: This research studied the mediating role of job autonomy in the relationship between ethical leadership and knowledge workers’ innovative behaviour based on self-determination theory. Data were collected from 377 knowledge workers in the IT industry in Sichuan, Henan, and Guangdong province, China. A conceptual model was constructed and tested with the statistical software SMART-PLS. This paper concludes that job autonomy effectively mediates ethical leadership and knowledge workers’ innovative behaviour. The findings also reveal the strong and positive impact of ethical leadership on knowledge workers’ innovative behaviour. This paper enriched the leadership literature and extended the understanding of the predictors of employee innovative behaviour


Objective: To investigate the impact of ethical leadership on knowledge workers’ innovative behaviour. To study the relationship between ethical leadership and job autonomy. To examine the impact of job autonomy on knowledge workers’ innovative behaviour. To investigate the mediating effect of job autonomy between ethical leadership and knowledge workers’ innovative behaviour.


Theoretical Framework: Knowledge workers are highly skilled workers with professional knowledge, good education, or experience in their respective fields (Davenport, 2006). According to Correia & Dierendonck (2010), three core elements underpin the global meaning framework of knowledge workers: first, knowledge workers perceive their work as a calling; second, they have a strong desire for membership within a community of peers; third, they demand autonomy. These elements are in consistency with SDT.    


Method: This research used a quantitative approach to test the hypothesis, a closed questionnaire to collect the data, and SMART PLS version 4 to analyze the data. The survey questions were translated into Chinese with a back-translation approach (Brislin, 1986), as the respondents were all Chinese.


Results and Discussion: Due to the single source, we first test common method bias. We adopted a full collinearity assessment approach to check the common method bias (Kock, 2015; Kock and Lynn, 2012). In this approach, the constructs were regressed on a new dummy variable with random values. As shown in table 4.1, the variance inflation factor (VIF) is lower than 3.3 (Kock, 2015), the model is indicated free of common method bias.


Research Implications: The study constructed a research model to investigate the mediating effect of job autonomy between ethical leadership and knowledge workers' innovative behaviour. Management in knowledge-intensive industries, like the IT industry, can gain inspiration from the research to develop proper management strategies to promote knowledge workers’ innovative behaviour while guarding the ethical line.


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How to Cite

Zhang, H., & Khan, M. S. (2024). Empirical Research on Ethical Leadership and Knowledge Workers’ Innovative Behaviour: The Mediating Role of Job Autonomy. Revista De Gestão Social E Ambiental, 18(9), e06255. https://doi.org/10.24857/rgsa.v18n9-091