Servant leadership and transformational leadership are independently supported by over 30 years of theory and empirical research. However, their similar claims toward optimal leader, organizational, and follower outcomes, call for examination of their distinctions and their unique contributions to leadership research and knowledge. The current study examines the relative effectiveness of servant leadership and transformational leadership, seeking to provide empirical evidence of each model’s independence and unique contributions, as well as their shared contributions.
Leaders of church organizations were invited to participate in this survey study beginning with the identification and assessment of servant and/or transformational leadership styles. Staff members and lay leaders in each church organization later assessed their pastor’s leadership style and leadership effectiveness, in addition to providing evaluations of their church’s organizational health and their own trust, commitment, satisfaction, and faith maturity. Evidence supported the reliability and validity of both servant and transformational leadership models and the associated measurement instruments in this population. Both servant and transformational leadership behaviors were expected to relate positively to leader, organizational, and follower outcomes. In addition, each leadership style was expected to contribute uniquely to the explanation of leader, organizational, and follower outcomes, supporting the independence of the servant leadership and transformational leadership constructs. These hypothesized relationships were supported for a majority of the study variables.
When considered together, both servant and transformational leadership also demonstrated independent, positive relationships with many of the outcomes examined, including: leader effectiveness, church health perceptions, trust in leader, trust in organization, and follower satisfaction, with marginal support for affective commitment. Additionally, servant leadership independently predicted normative commitment and transformational leadership independently predicted faith maturity, with no significant findings for either predictor on continuance commitment, follower giving, church health statistics, change in church size over time or change in church finances over time. An examination of the relative contribution of each leader style revealed greater predictive power for transformational leadership on church health perceptions, trust in organization, follower satisfaction, and follower faith maturity. In contrast, greater predictive power was observed for servant leadership on leader effectiveness, trust in leader, and normative commitment in the combined model.