Distinguishing between transformational and servant leadership

Jeanine Parolini (Jeanine Parolini Consulting, Chanhassen, Minnesota, USA Regent University, Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA)
Kathleen Patterson (School of Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship, Regent University, Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA)
Bruce Winston (School of Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship, Regent University, Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Publication date: 8 May 2009



Although transformational and servant leadership has been in existence since the 1970s and theoretical assumptions about the differences began in the 1990s, this paper seeks to relate the first empirical investigation distinguishing between the two leaders, which was conducted recently by the first author.


Through a review of the literature, the first author established 19 semantic differential scales and two self‐typing paragraphs to differentiate between the two leaders. The scales and paragraphs were formed into an online survey, reviewed by an expert panel, and distributed to 56 randomly selected contacts where 514 participants responded.


Through discriminant analysis, five statistically significant (p=0.000) discriminant items were found that differentiated between transformational and servant leadership.

Research limitations/implications

The paper proposes that the five statistically significant items revealed by the first author's research be brought into future definitions, discussions, and research on transformational and/or servant leadership.

Practical implications

The five items proposed should also be integrated into leadership and organizational development practices, the literature, and future research.


The paper discusses the first empirical research study investigating the distinctions between transformational and servant leaders, two leadership styles that have existed and been discussed by scholars and theorists since the 1970s.



Parolini, J., Patterson, K. and Winston, B. (2009), "Distinguishing between transformational and servant leadership", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 30 No. 3, pp. 274-291. https://doi.org/10.1108/01437730910949544

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Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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