Many of the findings in the Original CEO Study were related to key concepts in servant leadership as described by van Dierendonck (2011). Servant leadership concepts were linked directly or indirectly with 22 of the 35 top-level concepts in the leading transformation framework (Latham, 2013, p. 33). This research “stream” focuses on the intersection between servant leadership and the leading transformation framework, two of the research streams that I call for being combined in Latham (2014).
The current research projects originated with Tatiana Zimmerer’s PhD dissertation and investigates three key issues related to servant leadership in the United States (Zimmerer, 2013). First, validate the multi-dimensional Servant Leadership Survey (SLS), developed and previously validated by Dirk van Dierendonck and Inge Nuijten in a European context, in the United States. Second, compare the levels of servant leadership displayed by leaders in the United States with those in the UK, Netherlands, and Italy. Third, determine if there is a relationship between the level of servant leadership and follower job satisfaction and affective organization commitment in the United States. A sample of 452 was obtained from a pool of adults employed in the US. Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was used to validate the eight dimensions of servant leadership in the US. Servant leadership expressed by leaders in the US was significantly lower on six of the eight dimensions compared to the UK, Netherlands, and Italy. SLS scores in the US were positively correlated with job satisfaction and affective organizational commitment. Overall, the SLS and associated servant leadership model were validated in the US.
The second part of this study explores the question, is there a leadership style that is desirable and effective for members of all generational cohorts? A study was conducted to test the notion that the effectiveness of servant leaders varied among three of the main generations working in the US today (Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y). After confirmatory factor analysis (structural equation modeling) was conducted a MANOVA found no significant relationships between scores for servant leadership attributes and organizational outcomes based on generational cohort affiliation. This study is the first to investigate generational cohort perceptions and organizational outcomes regarding servant leadership utilizing the newly designed and validated servant leadership survey by Dirk van Dierendonck and Inge Nuijten. Based on these results, there appears to be little need to use differentiated leadership approaches to accommodate specific generational cohort leadership preferences when applying servant leadership principles.
- Latham, J. R. (2014). Leadership for quality and innovation: Challenge, theories, and a framework for future research. Quality Management Journal, 21(1), 5. | Download
- Latham, J. R. (2013). A framework for leading the transformation to performance excellence part II: CEO perspectives on leadership behaviors, individual leader characteristics, and organizational culture. Quality Management Journal, 20(3), 22. | Download
- van Dierendonck, D. (2011). Servant leadership: A review and synthesis. Journal of Management, 37(4), 34. doi: 10.1177/0149206310380462
- Zimmerer, T. E. (2013). Generational perceptions of servant leadership: A mixed methods study. (PhD Doctoral Dissertation), Capella University, Minneapolis, MN.
Tatiana E. Zimmerer, PhD
We have completed the qualitative analysis of the interviews with followers of servant leaders. The sample was selected based on a score of 4.0 or higher on the servant leadership survey and includes members from three generational cohorts – Baby boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y. The paper was accepted for the scholarship track of the upcoming International Leadership Association annual conference in Barcelona. We continue to work on bringing together the quantitative analysis with the qualitative analysis to provide a more complete understanding of the effectiveness of servant leadership across multiple generational cohorts.
Publications and Presentations
Zimmerer, T. E. & Latham, J. R. (2015). Exploring what it is like to work for a servant leader: Perspectives of three generational cohorts. Paper accepted for presentation at the International Leadership Association Annual Conference (October) Barcelona, Spain.
Zimmerer, T. E., & Latham, J. R. (2014). One size fits all: Servant leadership an effective approach for all generations. Paper presented at the 74th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management (August 3rd), Philadelphia. | Read more
Zimmerer, T. E. (2013). Generational perceptions of servant leadership: A mixed methods study. (PhD Doctoral Dissertation), Capella University, Minneapolis, MN.