SERVANT LEADERSHIP & 10 Convincing Reasons to It According to Research

by Marcel Schwantes, Inc. Magazine, 9/1/16.

Robert Greenleaf popularized the term in 1970 when he wrote his famous essay, The Servant as Leader, in which he stated,

“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?”

Reason No. 1: Organizational effectiveness is high.

Dr. Robert Liden, Professor of Management at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), has conducted many studies on the topic that links servant leadership to building strong teams and collaboration. Here’s Dr. Liden discussing servant leadership’s impact on job performance.

Dr. Robert Liden “How Servant Leadership Improves Business Performance” from Liz Dickey on Vimeo.

Reason No. 2: Servant leadership pumps up the team with confidence, which leads to high-performance.

Published in the Journal of Applied Psychology (2011), Jia Hu & Dr. Liden studied 304 employees representing 71 teams in 5 banks.

They concluded that servant leaders facilitate team confidence, affirming the strengths and potential of the team and providing development support…

Reason No. 3: Servant leadership leads to more helping and creative employees.

Employees of servant leaders are more helping and creative than those working with leaders who scored lower on servant leadership.

Source: Neubert, Kacmar, Carlson, Chonko, & Roberts, Journal of Applied Psychology, 2008…

Reason No. 5: Greater job satisfaction.

In a study at a five-hospital system with 17 departments, 253 nurses who perceived that their nurse managers had a higher servant leadership orientation demonstrated significantly greater job satisfaction.

Source: Jenkins & Stewart, “The importance of a servant leader orientation,” Health Care Management Review, 2010

Reason No. 6: The Jason’s Deli Study.

University of Illinois at Chicago recently conducted a Servant Leadership study of 961 employees at 71 Jason’s Deli restaurants in 10 metropolitan areas in the U.S.

The research reveals when bosses act as servants to their employees, it’s good for business. Measurable increases in key business metrics like job performance (6 percent), customer service (8 percent) and employee retention (50 percent) were observed.

Research co-author Sandy Wayne, Ph.D., explains the benefits of Servant Leadership as much more than a nice thing to do for your employees; it’s good for the bottom line.

Reason No. 7: Because these successful organizations operate as servant leadership cultures.

Research has identified these high-performing and profitable organizations as being servant-led:

  • Chick-fil-A
  • Home Depot
  • U.S. Marine Corps
  • UPS
  • Ritz Carlton
  • Room & Board
  • Whole Foods
  • Starbucks
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Levy Restaurants
  • San Antonio Spurs
  • TSYS

Source: Washington Post, 2013

Here’s Bachelder at the 2013 Servant Leadership Institute Winter Conference Panel explaining, rather humorously, how financial performance stems from a servant leadership culture.

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