Topic: Leadership, Organizational Performance
Publication: Personnel Psychology
Article: CEO Servant Leadership: Exploring Executive Characteristics and Firm Performance
Authors: Peterson, S. J., Galvin, B. M., Lange, D.
Reviewer: Neil Morelli
Sometimes you have to give more to get more. The same is true when it comes to how CEOs lead their company and how well their company performs. According to Peterson and her colleagues, when the CEO (usually the most powerful and influential player in the organization) demonstrates servant leadership their firm becomes more successful.
Recently, organizational research, in combination with business strategy, has shifted its interest to study how the more relational styles of leadership have an impact at the organizational level. In this study, servant leadership was the style of choice and is defined as leading by placing a heavy weight on personal integrity, caring for the needs of followers, and having a “strong moral compass.” Peterson and colleagues not only wanted to see the organizational outcomes of servant leadership, but also to understand what determines this leadership style.
After sampling 126 CEOs from the technology industry, the researchers found that narcissism negatively predicted servant leadership, and founder status (whether the CEO founded the firm) positively predicted servant leadership. They also found that these two characteristics were mediated by organizational identification—whether a CEO sees his or her identity as being synonymous with the identity of the organization. As for firm performance, servant leadership positively predicted return on assets, meaning that there is a relationship between leading by valuing others more highly than oneself and organizational performance.
Of course, the most obvious practical implication is that the non-narcissistic, founding CEO who highly identifies with his or her organization and displays servant leadership will be more successful, but there are other important points to note. As the authors suggest, having leaders at any level share a “we” mentality over a “me” mentality will help leaders at any level develop more servant leader behaviors. Also, knowing what kind of characteristics to look out for will be helpful to anyone involved in the decision-making process in promoting or selecting new leaders for the future.
human resource management, organizational industrial psychology, organizational management