Linking Servant Leadership and Organizational Citizenship Behavior

In the workplace, servant leadership basically refers to a leadership style in which leaders place the needs of their employees above their own self-interests. In addition to acknowledging their obligation to their employees, servant leaders also recognize their moral obligation to the organization’s success.  According to this study (Walumbwa, Hartnell, & Oke, 2010), servant leadership facilitates organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) in the workplace. The authors reason that servant leaders create a climate of reciprocity among their employees. In response to their leader’s selfless leadership style, employees may return the favor and engage in voluntary work behavior that is beneficial to the organization and its members (OCBs).


The researchers studied a total of 815 employees making up 123 work units (led by a single supervisor) for several multinational organizations in Kenya. They confirmed their general hypothesis that servant leadership increases the likelihood that employees will engage in OCBs. The authors also identified several reasons why this relationship exists, including employees’ increased level of commitment to their supervisors and their increased confidence in successfully performing their jobs (self-efficacy). 


Servant leaders were also found to positively impact the work climate by creating a shared sense of service in the workplace and shared sense of fairness (i.e., procedural justice). Ultimately, there appear to be many reasons why servant leadership positively affects OCBs. Servant leaders’ influence on OCBs can have a large effect on organizations. Therefore, organizations should consider selecting and developing leaders who exhibit a servant leadership style.


Walumbwa, F.O., Hartnell, C.A., & Oke, A. (2010). Servant leadership, procedural
justice climate, service climate, employee attitudes, and organizational citizenship
behavior: A cross-level investigation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(3), 517-529.