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Does manager servant leadership lead to follower serving behaviors? It depends on follower self-interest.
Journal of Applied Psychology  (IF7.429),  Pub Date : 2021-01-01, DOI: 10.1037/apl0000500
Junfeng Wu, Robert C. Liden, Chenwei Liao, Sandy J. Wayne

One distinguishing feature of servant leadership is the proposition that servant leaders develop followers who also engage in serving behaviors. Drawing upon social learning theory, we argue that follower dispositional self-interest is a boundary condition affecting the transference of manager servant leadership to follower engagement in serving behaviors, and that follower serving self-efficacy is the underlying psychological mechanism. In a laboratory experiment (Study 1), we manipulated manager servant leadership and found support for the hypothesis that the positive relationship between manager servant leadership and follower serving behaviors is significantly enhanced for participants high in self-interest. The serving behaviors of participants low in self-interest was not affected by the degree to which the manager practiced servant leadership. In a field study (Study 2) with a sample representing 10 diverse organizations in Singapore, we replicated the findings. In another laboratory experiment (Study 3), we demonstrated that follower serving self-efficacy mediated the interactional effect found in the first two studies, supporting the social learning account for the transference of manager servant leadership to follower serving behaviors. Taken together, converging results from these three studies demonstrate that servant leaders are capable of bringing out serving behaviors especially among followers with a strong focus on their own self-interest. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).