To read this content please select one of the options below:

Exploring the relationship among servant leadership, intrinsic motivation and performance in an industrial sales setting

Belén Bande (Department of Marketing and Management, Universidad Santiago de Compostela, Santiago de Compostela, Spain)
Pilar Fernández-Ferrín (Department of Financial Economy II, Universidad del País Vasco, Alava, Spaim)
Concepción Varela-Neira (Management Department, Santiago de Compostela University, Santiago de Compostela, Spain)
Carmen Otero-Neira (Department of Business Administration and Marketing, Universidad de Vigo, Vigo, Spain)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 7 March 2016




Although servant leadership (SL) improves the overall effectiveness of individuals and teams, it remains understudied. The aim of this paper is to provide insight into the mediating mechanisms through which perceived SL affects salespersons’ proactive and adaptive behaviors.


Data were gathered from 145 industrial salespeople and their supervisors across a variety of businesses and sectors in Spain.


SL enhances salespeople’s adaptivity and proactivity by positively affecting their self-efficacy and intrinsic motivation. Furthermore, SL directly shapes the development of adaptive behaviors among salespeople, although this direct influence is not significant when considering proactivity. Additionally, the use of outcome-based control mechanisms enhances the positive effects of SL on salespeople’s intrinsic motivation.

Practical implications

The results demonstrate that sales managers can promote more proactive and adaptive behaviors among sales staff by recognizing the importance of service and their moral responsibilities to the success of their subordinates.


Cognitive evaluation theory was used to examine the direct and indirect effects of perceived SL on two emergent change-oriented behaviors (adaptivity and proactivity) using a matched sample of industrial salespeople from a variety of industries, thus providing a basis for the generalization of results. Moreover, in analyzing the moderating effects of outcome control, the conditions under which SL is more or less effective were examined.



Bande, B., Fernández-Ferrín, P., Varela-Neira, C. and Otero-Neira, C. (2016), "Exploring the relationship among servant leadership, intrinsic motivation and performance in an industrial sales setting", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 31 No. 2, pp. 219-231.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles