This article advances our understanding of the effects of servant leadership, an employee- and community-focused leadership style, on followers' public service motivation (PSM) and job performance. Based on social learning theory, we argue that by emphasizing to their followers the importance of serving others both inside and outside the organization and by acting as role models by serving others themselves, servant leaders enhance job performance by engendering higher PSM in their followers. A multilevel analysis of three waves of multi-source data from a Chinese government agency reveals that PSM mediates the influence that servant leadership has on followers' job performance. The results are consistent with theoretical predictions that the altruistic behaviour displayed by servant leaders elicits higher levels of the altruistic behaviours that characterize PSM, which in turn increases job performance. Hence, this study contributes to our understanding of how leadership drives institutional change and performance in the public sector.