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Servant leadership and paternalistic leadership styles in the Turkish business context: A comparative empirical study

Zeynep Hale Öner (Department of Business Administration, Dogus University, Istanbul, Turkey)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 4 May 2012




The purpose of this study is to test an adaptation of the servant leadership survey to Turkey for the first time and to explore the relationship between perceptions of servant leadership and paternalistic leadership styles in the Turkish business context to contribute to the complex process of contextual dynamics of leadership.


Data were collected from 305 self‐administered surveys completed by white‐collar mid‐level managers in Istanbul, Turkey. These white collar employees conveyed their perceptions about the leadership styles of their immediate supervisors.


The results revealed that Turkish employees perceived a high correlation between paternalistic and servant leadership styles, demonstrating that leadership practices held by employees are strongly culture‐specific. In particular, all dimensions of servant leadership construct – i.e. altruism, relationship, empowerment and participation – showed a significant positive correlation with the paternalistic leadership construct. Servant leadership attributes as perceived by Turkish employees reflect a higher degree of “people orientation”.

Research limitations/implications

Although this is a cross‐sectional study, its findings have implications for contemporary leadership research and practice, particularly with regard to understanding of leadership in the cultural context.

Practical implications

The study findings may assist human resources practitioners in multinational corporations and in Eastern and Western countries to unravel the confusion and misunderstandings created when different cultures perceive leadership in disparate ways.


This paper is among the first to establish empirically a possible link between servant leadership and paternalistic leadership perception as shown in the understanding of the Turkish employees. Turkish mid‐level managers did not consider servant leadership and paternalistic leadership styles as inconsistent, while the Western populace thinks of them as mutually exclusive. This study is a step in the complex process of theorizing about the contextual dynamics of leadership.



Hale Öner, Z. (2012), "Servant leadership and paternalistic leadership styles in the Turkish business context: A comparative empirical study", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 33 No. 3, pp. 300-316.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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