Servant leadership and passive leadership: A comparison of the effects of two non-heroic leadership styles on engagement, burnout, and performance
Campbell, E. (2020). Servant leadership and passive leadership: A comparison of the effects of two non-heroic leadership styles on engagement, burnout, and performance (Thesis, Master of Applied Psychology (MAppPsy)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13590
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13590
Leadership is a phenomenon that has fascinated the academic and corporate communities for decades. Its definition has evolved significantly over time and in recent decades it has become understood that there are many different leadership styles at play within the workplace. Typically, research has been focused on active or ‘heroic’ forms of leadership, primarily positive in nature. However, recently there has been a shift towards looking at ‘non-heroic’ leadership styles as well as an increasing interest in destructive leadership styles. The present study looks at two distinct leadership styles; one positive in nature (servant leadership) and one negative in nature (passive leadership). This thesis examines the impact that these leadership styles have upon the work outcomes engagement, burnout, and performance over time. It was proposed that servant leadership would be positively related with engagement, and performance and negatively correlated with burnout at Time 1 and Time 2. Conversely, it was proposed that passive leadership would be negatively related with engagement, wellbeing, and performance and positively related with burnout at Time 1 and Time 2. It was also expected that these relationships would persist over time. 697 participants responded to the questionnaires administered at Time 1 with 331 responses to the same questionnaire administered four weeks later at Time 2 yielding a response rate of 47.5%. Following this, relationships between servant and passive leadership and the outcomes of engagement, burnout, wellbeing, and performance were investigated using a Pearson’s r correlation, and regression analysis at Time 1 and Time 2. T tests were also carried out to test whether these relationships were stronger at Time 2 than Time 1 as post hoc analysis. Findings suggest that servant leadership has a positive relationship with engagement, and a negative relationship with burnout and that these relationships persist over time. The relationship between servant leadership and performance was only significant at Time 1. A regression analysis revealed that servant leadership is a positive predictor of engagement and a negative predictor of burnout but not a significant predictor of performance. These findings confirm that servant leadership is a ‘good’ leadership style and that although a servant leader’s behaviours may not be observed, the positive effect upon employees is instrumental to organisational success. A negative relationship was revealed between passive leadership and engagement, and burnout. These relationships persisted over time. However, the relationship between passive leadership and performance was insignificant at both Time 1 and Time 2. A regression analysis revealed that passive leadership is a negative predictor of engagement and a positive predictor of burnout but not a significant predictor of performance. These findings suggest that passive leadership is a ‘bad’ or destructive leadership style with detrimental implications for both employees and organisations. Post hoc analysis revealed that servant leadership had greater statistically significant impact on engagement, than passive leadership did at both Time 1 and Time 2, whereas passive leadership had a more significant impact on burnout than servant leadership at Time 1 and Time 2. Furthermore, neither servant nor passive leadership was found to have a stronger influence on performance. These results present important implications for leadership theory as it reveals that leadership behaviours do not necessarily need to be heroic and active or manifest in order to evoke change in followers’ behaviours. Both ‘good’ leadership and ‘bad’ leadership of non-heroic nature impacts work outcomes albeit differentially. This research highlights a need to recognise ‘good’ and ‘bad’ leadership behaviours that currently go unnoticed. If left unaddressed, the cost to both employees and organisations is huge. This study is the first of its kind to compare the effects of two non-heroic leadership styles and addresses a unique gap in the literature. Furthermore, this study contributes to the growing body of literature by exploring the longitudinal relationship between two leadership styles and the work outcomes of engagement, burnout, and performance which have previously received little attention. Future research should focus on continuing to explore non-heroic forms of leadership such as servant and passive leadership as this thesis highlights how behaviours or lack thereof can have significant effects on both employees and organisations.
The University of Waikato
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