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Servant leadership versus transformational leadership in voluntary service organizations

Sherry K. Schneider (Department of Psychology, University of West Florida, Pensacola, Florida, USA)
Winnette M. George (Point Fortin, Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 8 February 2011




The major purpose of this research is to test the application of two leadership models to a voluntary service club. Servant leadership was predicted to better explain the attitudes and commitment of service organization members than transformational leadership. Both leadership styles were hypothesized to be mediated by empowerment.


At eight clubs of a national voluntary service organization, it was investigated whether transformational and “servant” leadership were positively related to club member satisfaction, commitment and intentions to stay in the club. A sample of 110 participants completed either a printed or an online survey on the leadership style of their current club president and their attitudes toward the club in general. The club presidents completed the leadership surveys.


While perceptions of transformational leadership and servant leadership styles were highly correlated, servant leadership was identified as a better predictor of the voluntary club members' commitment, satisfaction, and intentions to stay. Club members' perceptions of empowerment mediated the relationship between servant leadership and satisfaction, commitment, and intentions to stay in the volunteer service organizations.

Practical implications

Leaders of service clubs may wish to adopt a servant leader style. These servant leaders may find it practical to provide empowering experiences to encourage volunteers to perform service club activities effectively. More generally, leaders who provide volunteers with positive, meaningful experiences may be able to maintain their interest in their volunteer positions.


It is believed that this is the first paper to compare directly servant versus transformational leadership in a voluntary organization.



Schneider, S.K. and George, W.M. (2011), "Servant leadership versus transformational leadership in voluntary service organizations", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 32 No. 1, pp. 60-77.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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