Servant leadership: A meta‐analytic examination of incremental contribution, moderation, and mediation

Using meta-analysis, this paper aims to provide much-needed evidence for the empirical distinctiveness of servant leadership, assessing its relative value for predicting a range of work outcomes over the aforementioned leadership styles

Allan Lee; Joanne Lyubovnikova; Amy Wei Tian; Caroline Knight


Scholarcy highlights

  • Research suggests that when leaders, as servant leaders, focus on their followers’ needs, this can have a positive effect on organizational functioning
  • We argue that servant leadership will be most effective in low-capital-intensive industries where human capital is more emphasized: it is likely that leaders need to interact more frequently with followers in order to understand their needs, provide support and empowerment
  • We interpret the magnitude of the true mean correlation estimates in reference to these estimates by Paterson et al rather than the conventional benchmarks proposed by Cohen, and we characterize our estimates as ‘below-average’, ‘average’, or ‘above-average’ in relation to Paterson et al.’s benchmark
  • Support was found for Hypotheses 1-5, because significant, positive associations were found between SL and individual- and team-level behaviors
  • SL represents a moral form of leadership that, alongside ethical leadership and authentic leadership has seen a surge of interest in recent years
  • We found evidence that measuring individual-level performance after SL did significantly reduce the magnitude of the association between the variables
  • Meta-analytic investigation has provided some initial evidence for the utility of SL as a newer form of leadership that can provide a contribution to the leadership literature
  • Our results indicate that servant leadership has predictive validity over other leadership approaches, and organizations would benefit by developing their current leaders into SLs. Given the incremental validity evident in the current study, organizations should aim to select SLs into influential positions: training programs and selection profiles and processes would need to be aligned and developed to capture attitudes and behaviors associated with SL inside and outside the organization

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