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Servant Leadership and Commitment to Change Essay

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Updated: Nov 21st, 2020

The Discussed Problem

The study “Servant Leadership and Commitment to Change, the Mediating Role of Justice and Optimism” is dedicated to the problem of a form of leadership and its influence on the commitment of followers. It was stated that under the circumstances of the changing external and internal environment, it is important for an organization to find a way to keep their employees committed (Kool and van Dierendonck 422). It was postulated that communication and leadership style plays a crucial role in this process.

The problem is that no optimal form of leadership was developed. Authors supposed that a combination of servant people-focused leadership and transactional task-focused leadership might be the most appropriate option. Authors also focused their attention on the importance of justice and the optimistic mood of followers for the success of the organization (Kool and van Dierendonck 423). Therefore, this study was dedicated to the problem of an optimal communication style between leaders and followers.

The Research Hypotheses

Considering the discussed problem, Kool and van Dierendonck formulated the following research hypotheses.

  • H1. “Servant leadership will be positively related to informational and interpersonal justice” (Kool and van Dierendonck 425).
  • H2. “Contingent reward leadership will be positively related to interpersonal and informational justice” (Kool and van Dierendonck 425).
  • H3. “Organizational justice is positively related to optimism” (Kool and van Dierendonck 426).
  • H4. “Optimism is positively related to commitment to change” (Kool and van Dierendonck 426).

The first two hypotheses were related to the leadership style, while the second two were related to the problem of justice and followers’ optimism. The statements were formulated based on the literature review. These hypotheses allow considering different aspects of the communication between leaders and followers in the organization and investigating the discussed problem from the different points of view.

The Need for the Study

The discussed problem was considered as urgent in the changing environment. It is important to consider different factors that influence the followers’ commitment because employees’ attitude toward work has a direct impact on the organization’s efficiency. It was also stated that existed studies “did not come up with a single best form of leadership that can be applied to maximize commitment of followers during organizational change” (Kool and van Dierendonck 422-423).

Moreover, nowadays, organizations have to deal with permanently internal and external changes, which result in an increase in the employees’ stress level. No complex investigations dedicated to this problem were conducted before this study. Despite the fact that different leadership styles investigations are presented in the literature, no studies dedicated to the combination of two leadership types were performed. Therefore, there was a pressing need to conduct such research.

The Methodology

With the purpose of checking the research hypotheses, a survey with 135 participants was conducted. All participants were employees of the same reintegration company. Responders knew that the survey was anonymous, and no negative consequences of their answers would appear. Totally, 211 people were purposed to participate in the study, and 135 of them completed the entire questionnaire. 58% of responders were men, and 42% were women. The average age of participants was 45 years (Kool and van Dierendonck 426).

The questionnaire contained the following items for measuring:

  • servant leadership;
  • contingent reward;
  • interpersonal and informational organizational justice;
  • optimism;
  • commitment to change (Kool and van Dierendonck 426).

For the data analysis, all four hypotheses were combined into one model and were checked with a structural equation with latent and manifest variables modeling. Items from the questionnaire were manifest variables. Latent values of servant leadership, optimism, and commitment to change were determined by dividing all the values of the scales into three parcels. The organizational justice level was determined in two sub-dimensions (Kool and van Dierendonck 426).

The Literature Review

The studied problem, research hypotheses, and methods of investigation were determined based on the literature review. As the basis for the studied problem, Kool and van Dierendonck provided information about the importance of leadership style, organizational justice, and level of optimism for the followers’ commitment. The literature review is divided into two parts: the first one is dedicated to leadership and justice, and the second one – to organizational justice, optimism, and commitment to changes.

Servant leadership was first described by Robert Greenleaf (19-26). This type of leadership is focused on the followers’ needs and their growth within the organization (Graham 47). The authors provided six main features of servant leadership: “empowering and developing employees; humility; authenticity; interpersonal acceptance; providing direction; and stewardship” (Kool and van Dierendonck 423). Also, the authors characterized transactional leadership. According to Bass, such leaders provide rewards for excellent work and goals accomplishments (20).

The authors provided the character of organizational justice as the fairness of outcome distributions and decision-making procedures (Colquitt et al. 428). It was stated that justice improved followers’ motivation. In particular, the study was focused on informational justice and interpersonal justice, which can respectively predict the commitment and the followers’ distress (Tepper 179-180). Kool and van Dierendonck considered the importance of optimism for employees’ adaptation to changes and commitment (425). Optimism is an effective instrument for coping with job stress (Reuter and Schwarzer, 501).

Summarizing, a detailed literature review is presented in the study. In the review, all the related issues were considered. Possible explanations and importance of each of the four factors (servant leadership, transactional leadership, organizational justice, and optimism) were examined.

The Study’s Assumptions, Limitations, and Potential for Future Research

Kool and van Dierendonck described existed limitations of the study. First, no causal inferences between independent and dependent variables can be made because the study was a cross-sectional survey. Second, the sample was relatively small and represented only a specific setting. Third, the study was performed only on the individual level. These limitations lead to possible assumptions. For example, it was assumed but not proved that “commitment to change causes optimism” (Kool and van Dierendonck 429). It could be stated that assumptions provided questions for further investigation.

Considering the limitations, the authors stated that future research should be more general and should include participants from other settings. Larger sampling is also essential for further studies. Besides, it is possible to apply the multidimensional concept for the servant leadership estimation, which would allow understanding the importance of the particular leadership elements. Further investigation might also be conducted on the group level (Kool and van Dierendonck 429).

Conclusion of the Research

Kool and van Dierendonck did not provide a separate conclusion part. Results of the hypotheses checking were provided in a discussion part. According to the data analysis, the first hypothesis about the positive impact of servant leadership on followers’ commitment was confirmed (Kool and van Dierendonck 428). Second, interactional justice was shown to be related to the followers’ change commitment (Kool and van Dierendonck 429). Third, the authors confirmed the importance of optimism for employees’ well-being (Kool and van Dierendonck 429). Finally, Kool and van Dierendonck established the positive influence of transactional leadership style and contingent reward on the commitment to change (429).

In the last paragraph of the study, it was concluded that this study was dedicated to enhancing the understanding of the positive leadership role for followers’ commitment (Kool and van Dierendonck 430). The obtained results confirmed the authors’ statements about the importance of the two leadership styles (servant and transactional) combination of commitment enhancing. This company’s policy might be efficient to help followers to deal with the permanently changing environment.

Critique of the Article

The article “Servant Leadership and Commitment to Change, the Mediating Role of Justice and Optimism” was published in the Journal of Organizational Change Management. This journal publishes studies on HR and learning and organization studies. The authors are researchers from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The proposed study was a survey with theoretical model development and further data analysis. The value of the study is that it proposed the deep insight analysis of the leadership impact on the employees’ attitude toward work, commitment, and ability to deal with the changing environment. The authors built their concept on the literature analysis. They developed and checked the research hypotheses experimentally.

The research design was appropriate for this type of study, as though a survey is a typical approach in social investigations (Bulmer 24). The methodology design had some limitations, in particular, small sampling and individual level of study. Besides, the sampling was non-probability because it represented only a specific set of the organization. However, Kool and van Dierendonck provided the description of these drawbacks at the end of the paper (429-430). They underlined that these limitations might be improved in further investigations.

Kool and van Dierendonck explained their method of calculation and provided the interpretation of obtained results. The authors analyzed the standard deviations and intercorrelations of the variables included in the current study. Using the statistical approaches, they modulated the structural equation and tested it before the data analysis. The model demonstrated adequate results during the test. Therefore, the authors used it for research hypotheses testing. Kool and van Dierendonck used modern methods for data analysis and result interpretation. The authors provided references for each applied method. In general, it could be said that data analysis and results interpretation were performed in an appropriate way.

The article was written clearly. Kool and van Dierendonck used the appropriate in the area of investigation lexica. The article is understandable for readers. Authors provided a wide list of sources, the majority of which were reliable and novel research articles. In general, the paper has an appropriate structure, including the introduction with the literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and references.

However, some drawbacks could be cited regarding the structure of the paper. First, in the discussion part, Kool and van Dierendonck did not provide statements about research hypotheses acceptance or rejection. A reader could understand that all hypotheses were accepted while reading the article. However, the authors could state it clearly. Second, Kool and van Dierendonck did not include the conclusion part in both the body of the paper and the abstract. The conclusion was a small paragraph at the end of the paper, but it did not contain the obtained results summarizing.

Kool and van Dierendonck provided novel data regarding two leadership styles combination and its effect on the followers’ attitude toward work, commitment, and ability to deal with changes. The authors underlined that the investigation was not completed, and further studies are required (429). Besides, they provided ideas for future experiments’ design and possible improvements in the research process (429-430). Therefore, despite the limitations, the study could be considered as a sign of the leading investigation area.

Works Cited

Bass, Bernard M. “From Transactional to Transformational Leadership: Learning to Share the Vision.” Organizational Dynamics, vol. 18, no. 4, 1990, pp. 19-31. Web.

Bulmer, Martin. The Uses of Social Research (Routledge Revivals): Social Investigation in Public Policy-Making. Routledge, 2015.

Colquitt, Jason A., et al. “Justice at the Millennium: A Meta-Analytic Review of 25 Years of Organizational Justice Research.” Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 86, no. 3, 2001, pp. 425-445. Web.

Graham, Jill W. “Leadership, Moral Development, and Citizenship Behavior.” Business Ethics Quarterly, vol. 5, no. 1, 1995, pp. 43-54. Web.

Greenleaf, Robert K. “Essentials of Servant-leadership.” Focus on Leadership: Servant-leadership for the Twenty-first Century, edited by Larry C. Spears and Michele Lawrence, John Wiley & Sons, 2002, pp. 19-26.

Kool, Marjolein, and Dirk van Dierendonck. “Servant Leadership and Commitment to Change, the Mediating Role of Justice and Optimism.” Journal of Organizational Change Management, vol. 25, no.3, 2012, pp. 422-433. Web.

Reuter, Tabea, and Ralf Schwarzer. “Manage Stress at Work through Preventive and Proactive Coping” Handbook of Principles of Organizational Behavior, Blackwell Publishing, 2009, pp. 499-515.

Tepper, Bennett J. “Consequences of Abusive Supervision.” Academy of Management Journal, vol. 43, no. 2, 2000, pp. 178-90. Web.

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