Does organizational structure render leadership unnecessary? Configurations of formalization and centralization as a substitute and neutralizer of servant leadership

Nathan Eva, Sen Sendjaya, Daniel Prajogo, Karryna Madison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


This research draws on the substitutes for leadership theory and the organizational configuration perspective to examine if formalization and centralization moderate the effect of servant leadership on job satisfaction. The findings from a field study and an experimental study suggest that while formalization and centralization did not operate as a substitute or neutralizer independently, however as per the configuration perspective, they interact to moderate the relationship between servant leadership and job satisfaction in different configurations. The results indicate that servant leadership behaviors have more salient effects on followers’ satisfaction when they operate in organizations with lower levels of organizational structure. In addition, under specific structural configurations, formalization can act as a substitute for servant leadership, and centralization can act as a neutralizer on servant leadership. This research contributes to the literatures of servant leadership and the substitutes for leadership theory by enhancing our understanding of the impact of structural configurations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-56
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Business Research
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • Centralization
  • Configuration perspective
  • Formalization
  • Organizational structure
  • Servant leadership
  • Substitutes for leadership

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