Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

Servant Leadership in Multigenerational Family Firms

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

Servant Leadership in Multigenerational Family Firms

Article excerpt

Introduction

Servant l??eadership is an increasingl??y influential approach to leadership and management. In a recent literature review, for example, Parris and Peachey (2013) list a number of influential practitioneroriented books that address this approach (e.g. Max DePree's (1989) Leadership is an Art, Stephen Covey's (1990) Principle Centered Leadership, Peter Block's (2013) Choosing Service over Self Interest, and Margaret Wheatley's (2005) Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time). These same authors then observe that "over 20% of Fortune magazine's top 100 companies have sought guidance from the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership" (Parris & Peachey, 2013: 379). Although the roots of servant leadership go back to the practitioneroriented leadership work of Greenleaf (1970, 1977, 2002), there is a growing body of academic work in a number of business sub-disciplines, including strategic management, human resource management and organizational behavior, among others (e.g. Barbuto & Wheeler, 2006; Boroski, 2009; Jones, 2012; Savage-Austin & Honeycutt, 2011; Searle & Barbuto, 2011; Sendjaya & Pekerti, 2010; van Dierendonck, 2011; Walumbwa, Hartnell, & Oke, 2010).

Service to others is the basis of servant leadership. This type of leadership, which combines leadership with the desire to serve others, has the potential to impact a number of important organizational processes and characteristics. Servant leadership, for example, has been linked to increased trust in organizational leaders (Joseph & Winston, 2005; Reinke, 2004; Sendjaya & Pekerti, 2010), greater citizenship behavior (Ebener & O'Connell, 2010; Hu & Liden, 2011; Walumbwa, Hartnell, & Oke, 2010), enhanced collaboration and team effectiveness (Garber, Madigan, Click, & Fitzpatrick, 2009; Irving & Longbotham, 2007; Schaubroeck, Lam, & Peng, 2011; Sturm, 2009), and greater levels of employee job satisfaction and commitment (Cerit, 2009, 2010; Hamilton & Bean, 2005; Han, Kakabadse, & Kakabadse, 2010; Mayer, Bardes, & Piccolo, 2008). In addition to management, there is increasing interest and scholarly activity in other fields, such as nursing (e.g. Garber et al., 2009; Jenkins & Stewart, 2010) and education (Black, 2010; Cerit, 2009, 2010; Fridell, Belchor, & Messner, 2009). The increasing volume and sophistication of this growing body of academic work on servant leadership attests to its growing significance.

Servant leadership may be relevant for family firms. In particular, the leaders of multi-generational family businesses-family firms that have survived the succession to the second generation and beyond-may benefit from the practice of servant leadership in areas such as the awareness and understanding of the needs of others, the use of persuasion rather than positional authority, long-term orientation, and stewardship (Spears, 1995). Additionally, servant leadership may be conducive for multi-generational family firm leaders because it addresses three important leadership factors: the issue of more complicated goals and objectives than non-family businesses (Chua, Chrisman, & Steier, 2003), the problem of sustained conflict among involved actors (Morris, Williams, Allen, & Avila, 1997), and the importance of succession (Rubenson & Gupta, 1996). First, family firms differ from other businesses in that family firms may have non-performance-oriented goals that take precedence over the goals of growth and profitability (Chua, Chrisman, & Steier, 2003). For instance, providing employment for less-than-fully-productive family members may be more salient to the firm than profit maximization. This comparative ambiguity in goals and objectives complicates the leadership process within the family firm because leaders have to consider multiple factors beyond firm performance. Second, although compared to non-family firms, family firms may have a more centralized decision-making process, less formalized systems, more intimate communication, and a more long-term approach (Morris et al. …

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