ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2019, Vol. 51 ›› Issue (2): 227-237.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2019.00227

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Benefits and costs of servant leadership behavior: A work-home resource model perspective

KANG Yongjun1,PENG Jian2()   

  1. 1 School of Entrepreneurship Education, Guangdong University of Finance and Economics, Guangzhou 510320, China
    2 School of Management, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006, China
  • Received:2018-01-22 Published:2019-02-25 Online:2018-12-24
  • Contact: Jian PENG


Servant leadership refers to a set of behaviors that serve the needs and interests of others that enhance the long-term well-being of subordinates and the stakeholders associated. Many studies have demonstrated that servant leadership has a positive impact on its recipients such as subordinates, teams, and organizations. However, few studies have explored the impact of servant leadership behavior on actors (leaders). This study draws from the work-home resources model, and adopts the actor perspective to identify the benefits and costs of engaging in servant leadership behavior. Specifically, we infer that, on one hand, servant leadership could contribute to resource generation (i.e., positive emotion) and then improve work-family interface; on the other hand, servant leadership may also lead to resource depletion (ego depletion) and therefore have negative effect on work-family interface. However, as a kind of situational resource, organizational support could enhance the resource generation process and buffer the resource depletion process of servant leadership.@@@To test the proposed theoretical model, we surveyed 76 supervisors and their managers in Chinese enterprises using experience sampling surveys. Approximately one week before the start of the daily surveys, we sent a questionnaire containing the measures of our between-level constructs (e.g., organizational support) to participants. During the daily survey, participants were sent three surveys each day while they were at work for 5 workdays. At time 1 (11:00 a.m.), supervisors completed measures of servant leadership behavior, and then managers completed the measures of transformational leadership behavior and ethical leadership behavior of each of their subordinates (supervisors). At time 2 (4:00 p.m.), supervisors completed the measures of negative/positive emotion and ego depletion. At time 3 (7:00~9:00 p.m.), supervisors completed the measures of work-home interface (work-home conflict, work-home facilitation).@@@The results from the multilevel linear model analysis showed that: (1) engaging in servant leadership behavior is not only positively related to positive emotion, but also positively related to perceptions of ego depletion during the day; (2) positive affect and ego depletion, in turn, mediate the effects of servant leadership behavior on daily work-home interface; and (3) organizational support influences the strength of the daily relationships between servant leadership behavior and its positive (positive emotion) and negative outcomes (ego depletion), that is, high organizational support strengthens the positive association between servant leadership behavior and positive emotion whereas low organizational support increases the detrimental effects of servant leadership behavior on ego depletion.@@@Our findings contribute to literature in several ways. First, through taking an actor-perspective, we have investigated both positive and negative effects of servant leadership behavior, which can help us understand the double-edged sword effects of servant leadership behavior more comprehensively. Second, by revealing the mediating role of positive emotion and ego depletion and the moderating role of organizational support, this study has helped increase our understanding of the underlying mechanism and boundary conditions of the relationship between servant leadership behavior and work-home interface. Finally, based on the work-home resources model, this study has clarified the dynamic process characterizing servant leadership behavior to work-home interface by using within-level research design, which should eventually enrich the application of work-home resources model in leadership literature.

Key words: servant leadership behavior, work-home conflict, work-home facilitation, organizational support, work-home resources model

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