Servant Leadership Behavior: Leadership Development Implications

  • Gary E. RobertsEmail author
  • Diane Hess-Hernandez
Reference work entry


The authentic implementation of servant leadership within the workplace is a foundational challenge. Proponents must establish both its theoretical and applied efficacy and the adherent’s personal leadership credibility. One of the great challenges with servant leadership research and practice is the absence of consensus on its conceptual and operational definitions. The chapter begins with an analysis of 29 representative studies that conceptually and operationally define servant leadership. The analysis grouped the attributes into five dimensions (servanthood, stewardship, character, reasoning, and spirituality). No studies adopted all five dimensions, with most utilizing three or less, hence an indication of criterion validity. The combined studies generated 57 distinct servant leader attributes and 168 total attributes for all 29 studies, an average of 5.8 per study. The largest number of attributes related to servanthood, with seven or less addressing stewardship and spirituality. The lack of consensus on the conceptual and operational definitions is reinforced by an analysis of the common attributes. No single attribute is shared by more than 13 of the 29 studies. Twenty-five of the 57 (43.9%) attributes are utilized by a single study. Eighty-eight percent (50) of the 57 attributes appear in 5 or fewer studies. The second part of the chapter provided practical examples of character and spirituality attributes using a sample of 101 interviews of Christian workplace professionals in a varied set of occupations (law, law enforcement, education, and chaplains). The interview accounts reinforced the attributes and explored character and emotional barriers to the authentic practice of servant leadership.


Servant leadership Moral leadership Ethical leadership Leadership effectiveness Global leadership Christian leadership 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Robertson School of GovernmentRegent UniversityVirginia BeachUSA

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