The Effects of Servant Leadership on Group Cohesion and Employee Engagement

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2022-08-02

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Abstract

Research on servant leadership grew exponentially in response to increases in service jobs during the 21st century. Evidence suggests that leadership and climate influence engagement; however, research is limited on their joint effect on engagement. The present study examines: (a) the direct effect of servant leadership on engagement, (b) the indirect relationship via group cohesion, and (c) the moderating effects of subordinates’ perceptions of service climate. I predicted that the effect of servant leadership on engagement would manifest directly and indirectly through group cohesion. From social identity theory, I proposed that servant leaders promote group affiliations, producing cohesive workgroups that enhance engagement among employees. From conservation of resources theory, I explained how the service climate may moderate the relationships between: (a) servant leadership and group cohesion, (b) group cohesion and employee engagement, and (c) servant leadership and employee engagement. I expected that as employees perceive high-quality service climates, the effects of servant leaders increase. Survey data included (N=459) employees working in a large retail bank in the southern region of the United States. Regression results revealed that servant leadership related to engagement directly and indirectly via group cohesion. Moreover, these effects were generally strengthened among employees reporting stronger service climates. Additionally, service climate perceptions did not alter the impact of group cohesion on employee engagement. Findings indicate the need for more research on factors that enhance engagement and on other ways that organizations can provide resources to strengthen these effects. All in all, the findings suggest that leadership and climate are complementary resources to engage workers. Directions for future research and implications of the findings are discussed.

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Keywords

Servant leadership, Service climate, Cohesion, Engagement

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