How spiritual leadership contributes to followers’ helping behavior
Lin Wang, (Haikou University of Economics), Hua-Qiang Wang (Yangtze University), and Yi-Ping Sun (Hubei University of Economics), 2020, 48(11), e9557


In this study, the authors examined the effect of spiritual leadership on employees’ helping behavior from both cognitive (organizational identification) and affective (positive affect) perspectives. Participants were 342 employees from companies in three cities in China, and their 71 immediate supervisors, who assessed the employees’ helping behavior. Although previous researchers have found that spiritual leadership plays a critical role in, for example, the promotion of employees’ organizational citizenship behavior, which benefits the organization, it is not clear if or how spiritual leadership enhances employees’ helping behavior.

What is meant by workplace spirituality and spiritual leadership? Spirituality itself is a broad concept with room for many perspectives. It has to do with a person having a sense of peace and purpose and feeling connected to something bigger than themselves. Thus, in the workplace, spirituality is an intrinsic driving force that motivates employees, and it is their recognition of the value of their work, and the sense of their wider connection with their team and organization.

I was particularly impressed by the definition of spiritual leadership, which comprises three dimensions: vision, hope and faith, and altruistic love. Followers feel a sense of calling, namely, that their life is meaningful, and that they can make a difference, through the vision of a spiritual leader. Followers’ hope and faith are achieved through the leader’s belief that the organizational purpose and mission can be achieved. Finally, an overall sense of harmony and happiness is achieved by caring and appreciating others, namely, altruistic love. In this way, as followers feel that they have been understood and accepted by their team, they develop a sense of membership.

The authors found that spiritual leadership significantly affected employees’ helping behavior, and both organizational identification and positive affect mediated this relationship. The most heartening of the authors’ three practical recommendations is for managers to change from a leader-centric leadership style to a more employee-centric one. If managers influence employees through their beliefs, values, and positive behavior, rather than through traditional measures, such as power and control, this spiritual leadership will improve employees’ helping behavior, and, consequently, their team and the organization.

Katharine Samuel | Copyeditor Manager
Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal