Bloom's Taxonomy and Servant Leadership (Academic)
The following post is adapted from my personal academic coursework.
Bloom’s Taxonomy and the Future of Servant Leadership
While the practice of servant leadership has been around since at least the time of Jesus Christ, its recognition as a valid leadership model has been quite recent. Jesus made the case for servant leadership in Matthew 20:25-26 (NKJV), “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet is shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.” He then set the example for servant leadership in John 13:13-15, “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”
However, despite having the explicit instruction and the example of servant leadership, the concept did not emerge publicly in the business world until nearly two millennia later. Lapointe and Vandenberghe state that “Servant leadership was first introduced by Greenleaf in the 1970s.” Even then, Lapointe and Vandenberghe acknowledge that Greenleaf viewed servant leadership “as a way of living more than a way of managing people” and that his “early work reflected more of a servant leadership philosophy than a servant leadership theory.”
In recent history, scholars have demonstrated an increased interest in servant leadership and there is now a significant body of work available for review. Researchers’ work addresses a variety of questions and topics at various levels of Bloom’s taxonomy and leads to practical implications for a more effective implementation of servant leadership in the corporate sphere. The following analysis of some of the recent literature aligns the research with Bloom’s taxonomy and summarizes the implications of the research.
Analysis: Relationship of Servant Leadership, Organizational Commitment, and Behavior
Lapointe and Vandenberghe explore relationships between multiple variables in this study on servant leadership in a Canadian customer service agency. In this research, Lapointe and Vandenberge attempt to make the case for the effectiveness of the servant leadership model in improving retention, increasing productivity, and decreasing negative workplace behaviors, thereby answering those critics who question how the heavily-emphasized service component of this theory translates into “leadership” in the sense of leading subordinates to accomplish organizational goals. Lapointe and Vandenberge hypothesize that servant leadership increases commitment—more specifically emotional attachment and loyalty to the organization—and this commitment in turn leads to an increase in “the expression of constructive ideas to improve work procedures” and a decrease in “behaviors that cause harm to others or the organization.” In all, their research looks at seven hypothetical relationships between these variables.
The research of Lapointe and Vandenberghe, while valuable in its support of servant leadership as a model which is beneficial in achieving desired organizational outcomes, is primarily analytical in nature. It does not evaluate servant leadership nor any of the study’s variables in the broader scope of leadership theories. Nor does this research offer any new, creative approach to implementing servant leadership. Lapointe and Vandenberghe provide an effective, thoughtful analysis on and make a strong case for the effectiveness of servant leadership as a legitimate approach to organizational leadership.
Evaluation: When and Why Servant Leadership Impacts Employee Behavior
Panaccio et al. hypothesized that servant leadership leads to a positive chain reaction that culminates in improved employee outcomes. First, Panaccio et al. propose that servant leadership will lead to an increase in the fulfillment of the psychological contract (PC)—individuals’ beliefs that their employers are “meeting implicit promises in the employment relationship.” Then, Panaccio et al. expect this increase in PC fulfillment to have a positive effect on key employee behaviors. Finally, they postulate that the improvement in these behaviors will in turn have a positive effect on employee outcomes.
In their research, Panaccio et al. evaluate PC fulfillment as the first dependent variable in this chain reaction. Panaccio et al. found that their “results identified PC fulfillment as a key process through which servant leadership influences follower engagement in personal initiative and boosterism citizenship behaviors as well as innovative behaviors.” By evaluating the validity of PC fulfillment as both an effect of servant leadership and a cause of improved employee behaviors, Panaccio et al. have improved the credibility of the servant leadership theory and added the importance of PC fulfillment to the ever-growing understanding of the effectiveness and implications of servant leadership in the corporate world.
Creation: Transforming African Church Leadership
Magezi identifies features unique to African leadership—chief among them being kingship and gerontocracy—which are present in African churches instead of what Westerners would define as biblical servant leadership. Magezi sees problems inherent to this leadership style not only in a secular context, but especially in the Church . However, Magezi acknowledges that there is some value to this leadership system and rather than replace it entirely, proposes a path forward for contemporary and future African church leadership using Jesus, the King who chose to serve, as the model for leaders. Through merging biblical kingship and biblical servant leadership, Magezi believes pastors can best lead the African church through the years ahead.
Holy Bible, New King James Version. (2020). Thomas Nelson (Original work published 1982).
Lapointe, É., & Vandenberghe, C. (2018). Examination of the relationships between servant leadership, organizational commitment, and voice and antisocial behaviors. Journal of Business Ethics, 148(1), 99-115. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-015-3002-9
Magezi, V. (2015). God-image of Servant King as powerful but vulnerable and serving: Towards transforming African church leadership at an intersection of African kingship and biblical kingship to servant leadership. Hervormde Teologiese Studies, 71(2), 1-9. https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v71i2.2907
Panaccio, A., Henderson, D. J., Liden, R. C., Wayne, S. J., & Xiaoyun, C. (2014). Toward an understanding of when and why servant leadership accounts for employee extra-role behaviors. Journal of Business and Psychology, 30, 657-675. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-014-9388-z