Servant Leadership and Moral Reasoning Orientation
: A Quantitative Examination of the Antecedent and Dimensions of Servant Leadership in Contemporary Organisations

  • Ijeoma Ukeni

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Servant leadership has an acclaimed relevance to contemporary organisations due to its moral and service dimensions and the prioritisation of followers’ needs. However, inadequate evidence exists of its appropriateness in for-profit organisations, its effect on followers’ motivation to serve and its moral dimension. Hence, this study explored employees’ motivation to serve as an antecedent of servant leadership influenced by their perception of their leaders’ moral and service behaviours in both public and private organisations. Additionally, since the moral dimension differentiates servant leadership from other leadership theories, the study aimed at uncovering the moral reasoning orientation leaders tend towards between justice and care ethics. To achieve the research objectives, a quantitative methodology was adopted; using validated survey questionnaires with data collected from 208 employees across varying UK sectors/organisations. The data was statistically analysed, and findings show that servant leadership is evident across the different types of organisations, it moderately informs followers’ motivation to serve and has a higher propensity towards the ethics of justice. Hence, the three hypotheses were accepted implying that servant leadership is generalisable and can be learnt or reproduced by followers. Additionally, it means that leaders should use objective decision-making measures in the workplace such that both ends and means are justifiable. These results are significant because they make useful contributions to the leadership field on different fronts. They include the extension of the servant leadership survey via the inclusion of the moral dimension and the creation of an ethics-based model or servant leadership moral compass, which will serve as a reminder for practitioners to consider the three normative moral philosophical theories in decision-making. Finally, the key findings can inform organisational development programs such as leaders’ moral development and the development of service driven employees for leadership succession purposes; thereby leading to a reduction in demotivating and unethical practices in the workplace.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorShelley Harrington (Co-Supervisor) & Simon Kelly (Co-Supervisor)

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