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Keywords:

  • ethical leadership;
  • job performance;
  • workplace friendship;
  • traditionality;
  • China

This study examined the relationships between ethical leadership, as perceived by subordinates, and task performance as well as organizational citizenship behaviour towards the organization (OCBO) and towards individuals (OCBI), while lending consideration to the moderating roles of subordinates' workplace friendships and traditionality in China. The results, which were based on two-phase data from a sample of 312 supervisor–subordinate dyads in a manufacturing firm, indicated that ethical leadership positively related to subordinates’ OCBO and OCBI. Moreover, subordinates’ workplace friendships strengthened the relationship between ethical leadership and task performance, whereas subordinates’ traditionality strengthened the relationships between ethical leadership and task performance, OCBO, and OCBI. The theoretical and managerial implications of these results were discussed.

Practitioner points

  • Findings provide evidence that enhancing ethical leadership promotes subordinates' OCBO and OCBI.
  • Encouraging employees to develop friendships can enhance the positive effects of ethical leadership on task performance.
  • Encouraging employees to hold traditional values can enhance the positive effects of ethical leadership on task performance, OCBO, and OCBI.