Servant-Leadership: Paradox or Diamond in the Rough? Defended on Tuesday, 8 December 2009

This dissertation bridges the conceptual thinking on servant-leadership and academic data-driven leadership research. It offers a definition, a multidimensional measure and empirical evidence for the effects of servant-leadership. The literature study suggests that servant-leadership is ethical and different from other types of leadership in that servant-leaders put others’ interests first. The dissertation shows that servant-leadership behavior can be differentiated into two core dimensions: ‘serving’ (standing back, humility, authenticity, forgiveness), and ‘leading’ (empowerment, stewardship, accountability, courage). Conceptual thinking on servant-leadership suggests that individuals become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, and more likely to become servants themselves as a result of being led in a servant manner. Furthermore, servant-leadership has been proposed to have a positive effect on trust and business success. This dissertation provides empirical evidence that servant-leadership is positively associated with follower well-being, team performance and trust. Specifically, two studies positively related servant-leadership to well-being as measured with the three basic psychological needs from self-determination theory: autonomy, relatedness, and competence. Another study provided support for the existence of a positive link between servant-leadership (i.e., standing back, empowerment, and humility) and employee performance (over time and overall). A final study proved organization-based self-esteem has differential effects on the relationship between servant-leadership and trust. In sum, the present research offers a multidimensional measure for servant-leadership and suggests that servant-leadership is useful in that it can benefit follower well-being, team performance, and trust.


leadership, organization, servant-leadership, team performance

  • Share on