The Characteristics, Behaviors, and Effective Work Environments of Servant Leaders: A Delphi Study
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Based upon the principles of equality, respect, and dignity for an organization and its community, Robert K. Greenleaf (1977) dedicated his life to conceptualizing and defining the humanistic philosophy of "servant leadership." With service and leadership sometimes seen as opposites, servant leaders are often misunderstood and perhaps underestimated. The purpose of this study was to create a well-defined comprehensive portrait of a servant leader by identifying key descriptors of the characteristics and behaviors of servant leaders and the work environments where they are effective.
The research procedure consisted of a three-round Delphi to gain consensus on responses to four key research questions. From your experience and observation, what are the key words or phrases that describe (1) the characteristics that distinguish servant leaders, (2) the behaviors that distinguish servant leaders, (3) the work environments in which servant leaders are effective, and (4) the work environments in which servant leaders are ineffective? The following groups were represented on the panel of experts: (a) appointed and elected officials, (b) authors, (c) business leaders, (d) clergy, (e) educators, (f) leaders of associations, and (g) leaders of volunteer organizations.
The first round Delphi instrument was open-ended. The second round gained opinion by adding a Likert scale to the results of the first round. The third round Delphi instrument was used to gather opinions from each panel member using a revised Likert scale instrument. In the third round each panelist received the statistical information calculated from the second round. The characteristics, behaviors, and effective work environments, as agreed upon consensually by the panel of experts in the third round, were reported.
Twenty-eight panelists participated in each of the three rounds of the Delphi study. The characteristics, behaviors, and effective work environments of servant leaders, as determined by the panel of experts, are presented and discussed. A Servant Leadership Inventory was created from the data. The self-rating inventory is offered as an instrument to create discussion and increase awareness about leadership based on service to others.
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