The Service Leadership Knowledge Scale: Norms and Psychological Correlates

By Shek, Daniel T. L.; Zhu, Xiaoqin et al. | International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health, October 1, 2018 | Go to article overview

The Service Leadership Knowledge Scale: Norms and Psychological Correlates


Shek, Daniel T. L., Zhu, Xiaoqin, Tse, Samson, International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health


Introduction

With the growing globalization and rapid technology development which have intensified international economic competition, skilled human capital is deemed vital to sustain a nation's competitiveness and long-term prosperity (1, 2). Regarding the list of desirable attributes, leadership is among the most frequently cited ones. As Ewing, Bruce and Ricketts (3) stated, "the future success of local communities, states, and the country is tied to the development of quality leaders" (p. 119).

The increasing need for leadership qualities comes with a great emphasis on leadership education. In particular, higher education institutions have incorporated leadership into their mission statements and included leadership as one of the important student learning outcomes (4-6). To cultivate leadership qualities among the university students, a vast number of leadership programs in different forms (e.g., curriculum, course, workshop and outdoor training) have been offered to them (7-9). For instance, with the financial support of the Victor and William Fung Foundation, a largescale leadership project was launched in eight public universities funded by the University Grants Committee (UGC) in Hong Kong to satisfy the needs of predominant service economy by nurturing "service leaders" (10).

Despite the divergent patterns, common themes of learning goals can be identified for these leadership programs, such as improving leadership knowledge and nurturing a diverse range of leadership attributes (11,12). From the perspective of evidence-based practice (13), it is essential to carry out systematic evaluation studies to examine whether these intended learning outcomes are achieved and whether the related leadership education is effective. Unfortunately, rigorously designed evaluation research for leadership education is scarce, particularly in the Chinese culture. One possible reason has to do with the severe lack of valid tools to assess Chinese people's leadership attributes in the dimensions of leadership knowledge, attitudes and behavior.

Service leadership education and evaluation in Hong Kong

With specific reference to Hong Kong, the economic structure has shifted from the manufacturing economy to the service economy which calls for leaders with service mindset (14). To facilitate leadership education in the service era, Chung (15) proposed the Service Leadership Theory which defines service leadership as to "satisfy needs by consistently providing quality personal service to everyone one comes into contact with, including one's self, others, groups, communities, systems, and environments" (p. 5). To elaborate, service leadership highlights service orientation and manifest itself in three realms- self, others, and systems (15,16). Furthermore, it is believed that effective service leadership is determined by three key elements: leadership competency including intra- and interpersonal competencies, moral character, and caring disposition (15).

Guided by the Service Leadership Theory and with the financial support of the Victor and William Fung Foundation, the eight UGC-funded universities in Hong Kong have designed and implemented their own service leadership programs, which incorporate knowledge and beliefs of service leadership and aim to nurture critical service leadership qualities (i.e., leadership competency, caring disposition, and moral character) in the university students (10). For instance, at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), both credit-bearing service leadership subjects embedded in the general education curriculum and the non-credit bearing programs have been offered to the students since the 2012/ 2013 academic year (17). In addition, PolyU and other universities in mainland China jointly organized several intensive service leadership training programs for their students. While evaluation findings have consistently shown that the participants were highly satisfied with these service leadership education programs and they showed improvements in selfperceived service leadership attributes (18-20), the participants' actual gain in service leadership knowledge remains unknown. …

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