Serving to Help and Helping to Serve: Using Servant Leadership to Influence Beyond Supervisory Relationships

Olli Pekka Kauppila*, Mats Ehrnrooth, Kristiina Mäkelä, Adam Smale, Jennie Sumelius, Hertta Vuorenmaa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
314 Downloads (Pure)


This study provides a new perspective on servant leadership research by examining the social influence of the servant leadership of individuals who are not in a supervisory position. Drawing on servant leadership and social learning theories, we examine how the servant leadership of managers in support roles can initiate a social learning process that shapes the leadership style of line managers and thereby influences employee outcomes throughout the organization. To facilitate the integration between servant leadership and social learning theories, we also examine the role of efficacy beliefs in enhancing the effectiveness of the social learning process. Using nested, time-lagged data from 667 store managers, 121 line managers, and 23 human resource managers (i.e., support managers), we find that support managers’ servant leadership positively influences organizational members’ perceptions of overall justice and leader-member exchange through line manager servant leadership. In turn, employees’ favorable perceptions stemming from line manager servant leadership enhance the employees’ organizational commitment and job satisfaction. The results also indicate that high leadership self-efficacy augments line managers’ effectiveness in emulating servant leadership behaviors from support managers and reinforces the indirect effects on organizational members’ favorable perceptions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0149206321994173
Pages (from-to)764-790
Number of pages27
Issue number3
Early online date10 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • leadership self-efficacy
  • morality and moral behavior
  • positive organizational behavior
  • servant leadership
  • social learning


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