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Servant leadership and engagement in a merge process under high uncertainty

Milton Jorge Correia de Sousa (Leaders2Be, Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
Dirk van Dierendonck (Centre for Leadership Studies, Rotterdam School of Management, Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 7 October 2014




The purpose of this paper is to aim mainly at further understanding how servant leadership can affect engagement during a merger with high levels of uncertainty through the mediating role of organizational identification and psychological empowerment. In addition, the research aimed at validating the servant leadership survey (SLS) in a new culture and language.


In total, 1,107 respondents from two merging Portuguese companies answered a survey. Structural equation modeling was used to further test the mediation model proposed.


SLS proved to be valid and reliable in the Portuguese context and language. Servant leadership strongly affected work engagement in conditions of high uncertainty. Organizational identification and psychological empowerment acted as mediating variables.

Research limitations/implications

Future research could include longitudinal studies, the effect of specific servant leadership dimensions and the distinction between servant leadership and other leadership models during a merger in conditions of high uncertainty.

Practical implications

This study extends the applicability of the servant leadership model, and the corresponding SLS in a new national culture and as an effective leadership approach under conditions of high uncertainty, such as in a merge process.

Social implications

Multinational corporations can see servant leadership as a valid model that can permeate the whole organizational culture, inducing greater performance and the well-being of the workforce for increased engagement. Given the increasing uncertainty and volatility of the work environment, servant leadership could be particularly useful in such contexts.


This study benefits both leadership scholars and practitioners by providing evidence on the value of servant leadership in ensuring workforce engagement in conditions of high uncertainty, as in dynamic merger processes. The fact that the study was conducted right in the middle of the change process is rather unique. Moreover, servant leadership effectiveness is for the first time tested in Portugal, a country typically with a relatively strong power distance culture.



Jorge Correia de Sousa, M. and van Dierendonck, D. (2014), "Servant leadership and engagement in a merge process under high uncertainty", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 27 No. 6, pp. 877-899.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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