Bosses who put their followers first can boost their business

Companies would do well to tailor training and recruitment measures to encourage managers who have empathy, integrity and are trustworthy - because they can improve productivity, according to new research from the University of Exeter Business School.

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According to new research from the University of Exeter Business School, when leaders, as servant leaders, focus on their followers’ needs, this can have a positive effect on organizational functioning. They create a positive culture of trust and fairness in the workplace and also benefit through creating loyal and positive teams.

The study highlights a clear interaction between this style of leadership and an increase in productivity. Using a quantitative meta‐analysis based on 130 independent studies, scientists in this study offers evidence that servant leaders have incremental predictive validity over transformational, authentic, and ethical leadership.

Dr Allan Lee, the lead author of the report and Senior Lecturer in Management said, “Our work shows that, as we expected, a ‘servant leader’ style of management which is ethical, trustworthy and has a real interest in the wellbeing and development of staff brings about real positives within the workplace.”

“Employees are more positive about their work and therefore also often feel empowered to become more creative. The result is a rise in productivity.”

The analysis also found that this style of leadership often creates a positive and valued working relationship between the manager and the employee.

Dr Lee said, “Given the results, we recommend organizations look to put ‘servant leaders’ into influential positions and that training programmes and selection processes are aligned to make this happen. The results also suggest that it would benefit organizations to create, or reinforce a culture that positively promotes trust, fairness, and high-quality working relationships between managers and staff.”

The research was carried out by Dr Lee, Dr Joanne Lyubovnikova from Aston Business School, and Drs Amy Wei Tian and Caroline Knight from Curtin University, Perth. It is published in the peer-reviewed academic Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology.