Ethical Leadership: Impact on the Company’s Performance


It is hard to disagree that there are numerous professionally composed research papers written on different topics, and many of them contribute to their field and are used by other researchers. However, since the authors present their thesis statements, prove their opinions throughout the articles, and try to convince readers of their ideas, it may be effective for students and experienced specialists to create a critical analysis of an article. In this analysis, they should talk about the overall persuasiveness, flaws, and strengths of the author’s argument.

Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to analyze an article by Demirtas et al. (2017) named “The Moderated Influence of Ethical Leadership, Via Meaningful Work, on Followers’ Engagement, Organizational Identification, and Envy.” To begin with, the authors of this writing are either from Turkey or the U.S., and all of them are from business or economics schools and universities. In other words, they are good specialists with real experience and knowledge, which allows readers to trust the authors’ opinion.

The main idea of the article is that ethical leadership has a number of positive effects on the company’s performance and its workers. In other words, ethical leadership can increase the level of meaning experienced by followers in their work, “which in turn positively impacts followers’ levels of work engagement and organizational identification” (Demirtas et al., 2017, p. 183). Additionally, the employees’ levels of workplace envy are also reduced (Demirtas et al., 2017). To prove their point and collect evidence, the authors test their hypotheses “in a stratified random field sample of 440 employees and their direct supervisors in the aviation industry in Turkey” (Demirtas et al., 2017, p. 183). They then outline the collected evidence and results in a well-organized paper.

Overall, it is possible to say that the article is rather informative and insightful. Since Demirtas et al. (2017) collect the evidence themselves and also use an extended number of works by other specialists, their thesis is reasonable and trustworthy. At the same time, the way they organize their paper and prove their ideas step by step allows readers to find answers to all their questions and gradually become convinced of the relevance of the authors’ point of view.

Summary of the Article and the Author’s Argument

For many people, working is the main part of their lives that makes them feel special and important and provides them with purpose and meaning. Researchers also notice that work is typically associated with identity construction, while meaningful work can positively impact numerous behavioral and attitudinal outcomes (Demirtas et al., 2017). At the same time, the authors of the article mention that there is a gap in the research that exists on this and similar topics (Demirtas et al., 2017). To be precise, Demirtas et al. (2017) state that little research has tested or theorized those factors that have effects on meaningfulness’s development. One such factor is presumably leadership, and the authors collect evidence in order to develop this idea.

To begin with, it is essential to mention that Demirtas et al. (2017) divide their paper into several parts, devoting one of them to discussing five hypotheses that they formulate. The first hypothesis is that there is a positive and strong connection between ethical leadership and meaningful work (Demirtas et al., 2017, p. 186).

The authors prove this assumption by stating that ethical leaders are perceived as role models, and their employees tend to model their behavior, actions, and principles, which are fair and thoughtful decision making, responsibility, respect, and trust (Demirtas et al., 2017). By being a fair and honest leader who themself strives to achieve the goals of the company and believes in its mission, considering his work important, they can inspire the workers. Thus, the followers begin to believe in the significance of the organization’s goals and their own meaningfulness.

The second hypothesis is linked to the effects of cognitive reappraisal emotion regulation. According to Demirtas et al. (2017), cognitive reappraisal allows employees to turn their negative reactions into positive ones, strengthening the influence of ethical leadership on the workers’ experiences of meaning. Further, the third hypothesis states that if workers find their tasks and goals meaningful, the positive relationship between them and their ethical leaders is strengthened (Demirtas et al., 2017, p. 188). The idea is proved by the fact that the value-laden nature of ethical leadership promotes meaning, and employees who consider their work meaningful and significant are also more engaged in it.

Then, the fourth hypothesis concentrates on the ability of meaningfulness to increase the connection between ethical leadership and organizational identification (Demirtas et al., 2017, p. 188). The justification behind that idea is quite reasonable: whenever a person finds something to be purposeful, trustworthy, and pointful, they want to be identified with it. In other words, employees who experience deep and positive meaning in their tasks, responsibilities, and the overall mission of the organization want to be identified with this company and its staff (Demirtas et al., 2017, p. 188). Additionally, the thought that a worker can make a difference and contribute to the organization’s success is quite inspirational and meaningful, and it psychologically connects the company and its followers.

Finally, the fifth hypothesis is divided into two parts but overall mentions that meaningful work and ethical leadership reduce or eliminate workplace envy. Indeed, envy among colleagues can be triggered by competitiveness, unfairness, imbalanced rewards, injustice, and a hostile environment (Demirtas et al., 2017). However, since the main components of ethical leadership, which promotes meaningfulness, are fairness and justice, there is no opportunity for envy to prosper. Moreover, when employees find deep meaning in their work, they tend to allocate most of their time, energy, and focus toward their tasks, which also prevents them from envy and jealousy (Demirtas et al., 2017). Thus, these are the hypotheses stated and gradually proved by the article’s authors.

Critical Analysis of the Author’s Argument and the Overall Impression

It is fair to notice that the authors’ thesis, arguments, and evidence sound quite convincing. Demirtas et al. (2017) did fundamental and serious work as they managed to conduct a stratified random field sample of 440 supervisors and their employees, collect data at two points in time, compare and contrast it, and draw the results. Additionally, they studied a vast number of previously written articles and research papers in order to find evidence proving their statements. The following paragraphs contain an analysis of the article and mention some other writings on this topic to justify the overall impression and truthfulness of the conclusion drawn by Demirtas et al. (2017).

To begin with, it is essential to refer again to the first hypothesis of the authors. Ethical leadership and meaningful work are strongly connected with each other, and the former has positive effects on the latter. The same fact is mentioned by Mostafa and Abed El-Motalib (2020), who explore the relationship between ethical leadership and work meaningfulness and also believe that the latter can be strengthened by the former.

Further, Tseng and Wu (2017) think that ethical leadership has positive effects on employees’ loyalty and engagement, which also means that it enhances organizational identification. The topic of engagement is also studied by Engelbrecht et al. (2017), Mostafa and Abed El-Motalib (2020), and Sarwar et al. (2020). The researchers share the views of Demirtas et al. (2017) and confirm that the connection between ethical leadership and workers’ engagement is strong.

As for the discussion of envy and the possibility of ethical leadership and work meaningfulness to eliminate it, this topic is also explored by other researchers. For example, in their article, Zurriaga et al. (2020) systematize and review the knowledge about jealousy and envy at work. According to the authors, envy, which usually leads to dysfunctional results and outcomes, can be reduced and even eliminated by cognitive appraisal theory and ethical leaders, which proves the idea outlined by Demirtas et al. (2017). Nevertheless, not all specialists agree that ethical leadership is the best tool against envy.

For instance, Wang et al. (2021) conduct research to fill the gaps and then find out that not all employees perceive their ethical leaders as role models. Therefore, this fact undermines the assumption mentioned by Demirtas et al. (2017).

According to Wang et al. (2021), “ethical leadership evokes unethical behavior amongst followers lower in both moral identity and leader identification,” and the former is unable to change workers’ attitudes for the better when the situations are critical (p. 449). Therefore, ethical leadership is not a universally helpful practice. At the same time, Poursadegh and Faridpour (2018) share the point of view of Demirtas et al. (2017) and indicate that “the managers’ ethical leadership reduces the employees’ organizational envy and deviant behavior in the organization” (p. 6). Thus, opinions on this issue vary, and it is fair to say that the impact of ethical leadership on jealousy depends on the seriousness of the specific company’s case.

Overall, it is possible to say that the article itself was rather informative, well-written and organized, and persuasive. The arguments that the authors used were always deep, evidence-based, and thoughtful, and they also provided readers with answers to every question they could have. Therefore, the impression from this article is positive. Despite several limitations that Demirtas et al. (2017) list at the end of their paper, as well as some gaps that the authors did not manage to address, this is fundamental research that contributes greatly to the topic.


To draw a conclusion, one may say that the authors were quite successful in presenting and defending their arguments. It is unlikely that someone finds severe weaknesses and flaws in this research, but its numerous strengths are apparent to anyone, be it a specialist in the field, a leader, or an ordinary person interested in ethical leadership. Therefore, this article should be one of those that stakeholders get acquainted with when studying the topic. It will also be extremely useful and beneficial for further research.


Demirtas, O., Hannah, S. H., Gok, K., Arslan, A., & Capar, N. (2017). The moderated influence of ethical leadership, via meaningful work, on followers’ engagement, organizational identification, and envy. Journal of Business Ethics, 145(1), 183-199.

Engelbrecht, A. S., Heine, G., & Mahembe, B. (2017). Integrity, ethical leadership, trust and work engagement. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 38(3), 368-379.

Mostafa, A. M. S., & Abed El-Motalib, E. A. (2020). Ethical leadership, work meaningfulness, and work engagement in the public sector. Review of Public Personnel Administration, 40(1), 112-131.

Poursadegh, N., & Faridpour, B. (2018). The explanation of the effect of ethical leadership on the employee’s deviant behavior with the moderating role of organizational envy: A Case study of Petro Sina Arya oil & gas company, Tehran. International Journal of Business Management, 3(1), 6-16.

Sarwar, H., Ishaq, M. I., Amin, A., & Ahmed, R. (2020). Ethical leadership, work engagement, employees’ well-being, and performance: A cross-cultural comparison. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 28(12), 2008-2026.

Tseng, L. M., & Wu, J. Y. (2017). How can financial organizations improve employee loyalty? The effects of ethical leadership, psychological contract fulfillment and organizational identification. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 38(5), 679-698.

Wang, Z., Xing, L., Xu, H., & Hannah, S. T. (2021). Not all followers socially learn from ethical leaders: The roles of followers’ moral identity and leader identification in the ethical leadership process. Journal of Business Ethics, 170(3), 449-469.

Zurriaga, R., González-Navarro, P., & Buunk, A. P. (2020). Envy in the workplace: A systematic review of the past five years. Revista Psicologia Organizações e Trabalho, 20(4), 1247-1256.

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