Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

The Relationship between Servant Leadership, Affective Team Commitment and Team Effectiveness

Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

The Relationship between Servant Leadership, Affective Team Commitment and Team Effectiveness

Article excerpt

Introduction

Effective teamwork has been identified by researchers as one of the core features of highperformance organisations (Afolabi, Adesina & Aigbedion, 2009; Schlechter & Strauss, 2008; Sheng & Tian, 2010). Team-based approaches to work can, (1) increase innovation, (2) improve quality, productivity, organisational responsiveness and flexibility, (3) serve customers better and (4) reduce the time it takes for an organisation to transform an idea into a product that is viable and profitable within the marketplace (Glassop, 2002; Hamilton, Nickerson & Owan, 2003). Given the pivotal role of teams in organisational success, team performance needs to be proactively managed to influence team effectiveness. Teamwork, facilitated by effective leadership, is one of the means used by organisations to increase productivity (Chen, Kirkman, Kanfer, Allen & Rosen, 2007; Eisenbeiss, Van Knippenberg & Boerner, 2008; Morgeson, DeRue & Karam, 2010; Schaubroeck, Lam & Cha, 2007; Transcritti, 2010). Whilst a leader is expected to be accountable for the effectiveness of his or her team, a service-oriented approach to leadership appears to be one of the important determinants of team effectiveness (Irving & Longbotham, 2007).

Servant leadership comprises an understanding and practice of leadership that places the good of those who are led above the self-interest of the leader. A servant leader has true commitment to his or her followers and predominantly serves the needs of followers, hence providing vision and empowerment, with service being the main activity of the servant leader (Sendjaya & Sarros, 2002; Spears, 2010). Servant leadership therefore has some important implications for team commitment (Dannhauser, 2007).

Whilst influence is generally 'considered the key element of leadership, servant leadership changes the focus of this influence by emphasizing the ideal of service in the leader-follower relationship' (Van Dierendonck, 2011, p. 1229). As 'servant leadership is demonstrated by empowering and developing people; by expressing humility, authenticity, interpersonal acceptance and stewardship; and by providing direction', followers are likely to feel empowered (Van Dierendonck, 2011, p. 1254). Prior research has demonstrated that followers who are empowered display more commitment; when employees are empowered, they portray a greater level of self-confidence and have a greater sense of being able to influence their work environment in a positive way (Zhu, May & Avolio, 2004).

Whilst the literature on servant leadership and teams is increasing, paucity in research exists in South Africa on the relationships between servant leadership, affective team commitment and team effectiveness. It is also important to note that most of the studies on team effectiveness were carried out in business or revenue generating settings (Afolabi et al., 2009; Dannhauser, 2007), whilst a few studies were undertaken in service-oriented contexts such as educational settings (Bowman, 2005; DuFour, 2001). It is essential to understand team effectiveness in educational settings as it helps to shed some light on the nature of the school as a workplace, as well as on how the quality of interactions in schools affect teachers' performance. In a school workplace where there is interaction of a high quality amongst members, teachers will commit themselves to work harder and make their work experience more meaningful (Turan, 2002). According to DuFour (2001), principals who are inspired by the servant leadership role focus on developing a school climate and culture in which teachers share a common vision and a collective commitment to the team or school. School principals identified as servant leaders were rated highly by their teachers, compared to other school principals who use other leadership styles (Taylor, Martin, Hutchinson & Jinks, 2007). When the school principal (servant leader) has served the teachers' (followers') needs through the provision of a clear vision and guidance, teachers, in turn, are likely to act as servant leaders or trail blazers for students by removing obstacles that stand in students' paths (Bowman, 2005). …

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