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Contrasting effects of leadership styles on public service motivation: the mediating role of basic psychological needs among Indian public sector officials

Sanket Sunand Dash (Indian Institute of Management Rohtak, Rohtak, India)
Rajneesh Gupta (Birla Institute of Management Technology, Noida, India)
Lalatendu Kesari Jena (Indian Institute of Management Rohtak, Rohtak, India) (School of Human Resource Management, XIM University, Bhubaneswar, India)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 5 July 2022

Issue publication date: 11 August 2022




Public service motivation (PSM), among actual and prospective employees in the public sector, lead to positive work outcomes. However, there is limited integration of PSM with existing motivational theories, especially self-determination theory (SDT). The impact of destructive leadership styles on PSM is also understudied. The study aims to fill the gap.


The study used a cross-sectional survey of 693 public sector officials employed in Indian Railways to test the hypotheses. PLS-SEM was used for the analysis. The study found that fulfillment of basic psychological needs (BPN) at work leads to improved PSM while BPN partially mediates the positive/negative effect of constructive/destructive leadership styles like servant/autocratic leadership on employees' PSM.


Autocratic/servant leadership was negatively/positively and significantly related to PSM and to all three BPN needs. Servant leadership was found to be positively and significantly related to all three BPN needs, while the BPN needs partially mediated the relationship between servant leadership and PSM.

Research limitations/implications

The study identifies servant leadership as a driver of PSM and suggests that managers employed in public sector establishments should be trained to be less autocratic and more attuned to subordinates' needs. The baneful impact of autocratic leadership on employee PSM is highlighted. The cross-sectional nature of study makes it susceptible to common-method bias. The sample was limited to a single country. Future longitudinal and experimental studies based on samples drawn from multiple countries can yield more robust results.


The study advances the integration of PSM with SDT by identifying PSM with introjected motivation. It is also the first study to link destructive leadership styles with a reduction in employees' PSM. It identifies a counterintuitive, negative relationship between competence need satisfaction and PSM in the Indian public sector.



Dash, S.S., Gupta, R. and Jena, L.K. (2022), "Contrasting effects of leadership styles on public service motivation: the mediating role of basic psychological needs among Indian public sector officials", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 35 No. 6, pp. 659-675.



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