This summary is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center.
Servant leadership is a leadership approach centered on developing, serving, and empowering followers. The concept has received popularity in recent years because of its altruistic nature. The current study examined the impact of servant leadership on employee advocacy. Employee advocacy is defined as a verbal (written and spoken) or nonverbal voluntary manifestation of support, recommendation, or defense of an organization or its products by an employee to either internal or external publics. Because servant leaders prioritize followers’ interests, followers are more likely to go above and beyond to support their organizations.
The researcher introduced communication satisfaction and employee-organization relationships as important factors that link servant leadership and employee advocacy. More specifically, the study argued that supervisors who practice servant leadership understand the value of communication and emphasize delivering information followers need. Therefore, followers are likely to report higher communication satisfaction levels and may be more inclined to engage in advocacy behaviors. Finally, the author noted that employee communication satisfaction may lead to a positive perception of relationship quality with the organization, which in turn induces employee advocacy.
An online survey was conducted in May 2019. Participants included employees at different position levels in medium and large organizations in the United States. A final sample size of 777 employees was composed of 53.4% females, 46.3% males, and 0.3% other, and was made up of 61.4% non-management, 18.5% lower-level management, 16.6% middle-level management, and 3.5% top management employees. The median age was 42, and 91.4% had worked in their current organization for more than a year.
1.) When supervisors prioritize employees over self-interests, employees will verbally or nonverbally advocate on behalf of the organization.
2.) Servant leaders increase employees’ perceptions of satisfaction with supervisor communication, leading to higher-quality relationships with employees.
3.) When employees are satisfied with their relationship with their organization, they are more likely to reciprocate by advocating for their organization.
Implications for Practice
Organizations should 1.) highlight the value of servant leadership in fostering a trusting relationship with followers, 2.) support and train supervisors to become servant leaders, and 3.) help leaders understand the value of communicating effectively with team members.
Thelen, P. D. (2021). Leadership and Internal Communication: Linking Servant Leadership, Communication Satisfaction, and Employee Advocacy. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 15(5), 440-462.
Location of Article
This article is available online here.
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