7.1. Summary of Study Findings
The study began with the following research question: Does the Purpose in Leadership Inventory [2
], both its composite measure of servant leadership and its subscales (leader follower-focus, leader goal-orientation, and leader purposefulness), evidence criterion validity with important work-related outcomes? To answer this question, four primary hypotheses (1A, 2A, 3A, and 4A) and twelve associated sub-hypotheses were evaluated based on the following analyses: (1) exploratory factor analysis; (2) correlation analysis; (3) multiple linear regression analysis; and (4) hierarchical regression analysis.
The findings from these analyses support the study hypotheses. The exploratory factor analysis supported the use of the PLI as a three-dimensional measure, and both the composite measure of servant leadership and each of the three subscales predictably related to important work-related outcomes. The correlation analysis yielded statistically significant positive relationships supporting each of the four primary hypotheses and each of the sub-hypotheses.
The multiple linear regression analyses further supported the PLI subscales predicting important work-related outcomes and yielded statistically significant models. Evaluating the Beta scores, all statistically significant, from the multiple regression models indicated that follower-focus has the largest predictive effect for organizational commitment, job satisfaction, and leadership effectiveness, and that goal-orientation and leader purposefulness have a larger predictive effect on person-organization fit than follower-focus. Finally, hierarchical regression analyses further supported the hypotheses indicating that each of the PLI subscales have a statistically significant incremental effect on the four work-related outcomes measured. Evaluating the R square change scores for each combination of PLI subscales and the work-related outcome variables supported the findings noted above from the analysis of Beta scores. While follower-focus contributes most dominantly in predicting the work-related outcomes studied, goal-orientation and leader purposefulness are also supported as statistically significant predictors of the studied work-related outcomes at a smaller level.
7.2. Discussion of Study Findings
Beyond this initial overview of the study findings, the study results warrant additional discussion. First, regarding job satisfaction, the study findings, which support the relationship of servant leadership and follower job satisfaction, are consistent with previous studies in the servant leadership literature. The positive effect of servant leadership on job satisfaction is also reported by Laub [11
], Hebert [17
], Drury [52
], Irving [19
], Mayer et al. [18
], West et al. [53
], Jaramillo et al. [49
], Sun and Wang [66
], and van Dierendonck and Nuijten [9
]. The present study affirms that servant leadership, leader follower-focus, leader goal-orientation, and leader purposefulness are correlated with and predictors of follower job satisfaction.
Second, regarding organizational commitment, the study findings, which support the relationship of servant leadership and follower organizational commitment, are consistent with previous studies in the servant leadership literature. The positive effect of servant leadership on organizational commitment is also reported by Dannhauser and Boshoff [50
], Liden et al. [16
], Jaramillo et al. [49
], Drury [63
], Asag-gau and van Dierendonck [51
], and van Dierendonck and Nuijten [9
]. Discussing the rationale behind the relationship between servant leadership and organizational commitment, Liden et al. argue from social exchange theory that “subordinates may be motivated to respond in kind to their leader’s extra efforts by evincing increased commitment to the organization” [16
] (p. 174). A similar argument may be made for explaining the relationship of these variables in the current study. In fact, the strongest correlations found among the three follower-oriented dependent variables are the correlations related to organizational commitment. This affirms that servant leadership, leader follower-focus, leader goal-orientation, and leader purposefulness hold particular importance for follower organizational commitment.
Third, the study findings supporting the relationship of servant leadership and follower person-organization fit, though seen in only a limited manner in the literature, are consistent with the literature. Jaramillo et al. [54
] found a positive relationship between servant leadership and person-organization fit (0.66). Fields notes that, “person-organization fit refers to the degree of congruence or compatibility between the attributes of an organization member and those of the organization” [67
] (p. 217). Similar to the arguments made above about organizational commitment, when a follower sees the organization through the lens of the servant leadership behaviors of their leader, the results of this study point to such leader behaviors having a positive relationship to a follower’s sense of fitting in the organization of which they are part. The present study affirms that servant leadership, leader follower-focus, leader goal-orientation, and leader purposefulness are correlated with and predictors of follower person-organization fit.
Fourth, regarding leadership effectiveness, among the four dependent variables, leadership effectiveness demonstrated the strongest relationship with servant leadership. Overall, servant leadership, leader follower-focus, leader goal-orientation, and leader purposefulness are strongly correlated with follower perceptions of servant leadership. These findings support the relationship between servant leadership and leadership effectiveness found in previous studies [2
]. Regression analyses further support each of the independent variables as significant predictors of leadership effectiveness, though leader follower-focus has the largest incremental effect on leadership effectiveness.
Fifth, based on the literature noted in the previous discussion points, the fact that job satisfaction, organizational commitment, person-organization fit, and leadership effectiveness are also positively related to the measures of servant leadership in the Purpose in Leadership Inventory provides criterion-related validity for the Purpose in Leadership Inventory as a measure of servant leadership. An exploratory factor analysis was conducted on the Purpose in Leadership Inventory in which factor loadings less than 0.30 were suppressed. The factor analysis confirmed leader follower-focus, leader goal-orientation, and leader purposefulness scales with a 22-item solution (see Table 5
and presentation of results in Section 6.1
). Irving’s 24-Item PLI instrument, from which the 22-item solution is drawn, is included in Appendix A
. The two items unintentionally omitted in the present study are indicated in Appendix A
This 22-item measure for servant leadership used in this study performed as hypothesized in reference to job satisfaction, organizational commitment, person-organization fit, and leadership effectiveness. The previous and current exploratory factor analyses support using the subscales of the instrument. Additionally, the high reliability coefficients point toward the value of utilizing the instrument as a collective measure of servant leadership as well. Other valid and reliable measures of servant leadership exist (e.g., [9
]). The Purpose in Leadership Inventory has great potential when used in combination with other servant leadership measures due to its intentional emphasis on leader purposefulness as part of servant leadership, something only implicitly represented by other servant leadership approaches and measures. The Purpose in Leadership Inventory provides a means for explicitly measuring leader purposefulness in future studies.
Sixth, based on the multiple regression analyses conducted, leader follower-focus had the largest predictive effect on a majority of the dependent variables included in the study (see Table 13
and Section 6.3.1
). The servant leadership literature review noted above in Section 2
of this article emphasized focus on followers as a key distinguishing mark of servant leadership. The findings of this study affirm the importance of leader follower-focus. Leader follower-focus had the largest Beta and R
square change scores in reference to other independent variables when examined as a predictor of organizational commitment, job satisfaction, and leadership effectiveness. The Purpose in Leadership Inventory provides a means for explicitly measuring follower-focus in future studies.
Finally, the measure of leader purposefulness within the Purpose in Leadership Inventory is perhaps the most unique contribution this study offers to the servant leadership literature. As job satisfaction [9
], organizational commitment [9
], person-organization fit [54
], and leadership effectiveness [2
] have been previously related to servant leadership in the literature, it is the servant leadership measure of leader purposefulness that provides a unique and original contribution to empirical servant leadership studies. The Purpose in Leadership Inventory provides a means for expanding the research stream on this important leader area.
As noted in the introduction, special focus was given to the unique and incremental value of leader purposefulness in this study. Leader purposefulness played a statistically significant role in predicting the studied work-related outcomes, but the incremental effect was comparatively very small. These findings point to the need for more research surrounding the effect of leader purposefulness. While the study findings provide empirical support for leader purposefulness as a factor to include as part of servant leadership theory and research, in reference to follower-focus the incremental effect is modest. This affirms leader follower-focus as a dominate servant leadership factor in comparison to goal-orientation and leader purposefulness, but also draws attention to the need to explore the relationship between these variables in further detail.