Servant leadership and engagement in a merge process under high uncertainty

MJ (Milton Jorge) Correia de Sousa, Dirk van Dierendonck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

86 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – 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. Design/methodology/approach – 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. Findings – 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. Originality/value – 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)877-899
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Organizational Change Management
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Research programs



Dive into the research topics of 'Servant leadership and engagement in a merge process under high uncertainty'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this