A Qualitative Meta-Analysis of Greenleaf Servant Leadership Research

Zimmerman-Oster, Kathleen, Kimberly LaBara, and Merry Roberts

It has been forty years since Robert K. Greenleaf published his first essay, “The Servant as Leader”, where he distinguished his theory: “It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant - first to make sure that other people‟s highest priority needs are being served” (p. 4). Since this essay, stories, interviews, case studies, and testimonials have been written on servant leadership. The Hine Bibliography (2008) and the McClellan Bibliography (2008) are resources that provide detailed listings of articles discussing servant leadership.

However, many of the articles included in these reviews have not been evidence-based. As the formative step in developing a Greenleaf Scholars Program, the researchers embarked on a qualitative meta-analysis of current empirical research on servant leadership. The goals of the program and the research are as follows:

The literature review found many articles that provide evidence-based research on servant leadership that were not documented in the Hines and McClellan efforts; including several measurement assessments (i.e. Servant Leadership Questionnaire, Servant Leadership Behavioral Scale, etc.) created to measure servant leadership. The resulting typology matrix will serve as a resource for the Greenleaf Scholars Program and assist in furthering the ideas of Greenleaf‟s seminal work on Servant Leadership.