How servant leadership influences organizational citizenship behavior: the roles of LMX, empowerment, and proactive personality

A. Newman, Gary Schwarz, B. Cooper, S. Sendjaya

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173 Citations (Scopus)


While the link between servant leadership and organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) has been established, the individual-level mechanisms underlying this relationship and its boundary conditions remain poorly understood. In this study, we investigate the salience of the mediating mechanisms of leader–member exchange (LMX) and psychological empowerment in explaining the process by which servant leaders elicit discretionary OCB among followers. We also examine the role of followers’ proactive personality in moderating the indirect effects of servant leadership on OCB through LMX and psychological empowerment. Analysis of survey data collected from 446 supervisor–subordinate dyads in a large Chinese state-owned enterprise suggests that while servant leadership is positively related to subordinate OCB through LMX, psychological empowerment does not explain any additional variance in OCB above that accounted for by LMX. Moderated mediation tests confirm the moderating effect of proactive personality through LMX. By providing a nuanced understanding of how and when servant leadership leads followers to go above and beyond their job role, our study assists organizations in deciding how to develop and utilize servant leaders in their organizations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-62
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017


  • LMX
  • Organizational citizenship behavior
  • Psychological empowerment
  • Servant leadership

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