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When a servant‐leader comes knocking …

Jon Aarum Andersen (Lilllehammer University College, Lillehammer, Norway)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 6 February 2009




The purpose of this paper is to scrutinise the concept of servant leadership from a business administration (management) point‐of‐view.


A review of scholarly works on servant‐leadership is presented.


A generally accepted definition of servant‐leadership is not available. There are no generally accepted instruments for measuring servant‐leadership. It is unclear whether some leaders are servant‐leaders while others are not, and whether leaders can be servant‐leaders to different degrees. The positive effects of servant‐leadership on organisational outcomes, a consideration highly relevant to management, have not been empirically established. Some studies have shown negative effects of servant‐leadership on organisational effectiveness.

Research limitations/implications

This literature review contains no empirical data.

Practical implications

The argument that servant‐leaders should be in charge of private companies and public organisations appears to be contrary to theoretical and empirical considerations. Servant‐leaders, whose concerns are primarily focused on subordinates rather than customers (or citizens), are hardly able to attain organisational goals.


The paper offers critical comments on the conceptual and empirically usefulness of servant‐leadership when applied to business enterprises and public agencies.



Aarum Andersen, J. (2009), "When a servant‐leader comes knocking …", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 4-15.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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