Emily Hunter, Baylor:
Improve Customer Service and Reduce Turnover with Servant Leaders
June 10, 2013
that want to provide better customer service and decrease employee
turnover may be wise to hire managers who have the attributes of servant
leaders, according to a Baylor University study in the journal The
"Our study suggests that servant leaders create a work environment that
promotes the virtue of serving others, and that their employees tend to
want to remain and be more engaged in such a positive work environment,"
said Emily Hunter, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing and
entrepreneurship at Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business. She
and Mitchell Neubert, Ph.D., associate professor of management and
entrepreneurship and Chavanne Chair of Christian Ethics in Business,
authored the study, along with co-authors at the University of Houston
and University of Houston-Downtown.
Servant leaders put the interests of their employees before their own
interests by helping them to grow and succeed in the work place. These
leaders also tend to promote ethical behavior and create value for
others outside the organization.
Servant leadership is increasingly popular among companies today. Many
of Fortune Magazine's "100 Best Companies to Work for in America'' name
servant leadership as a core company value.
To compete, organizations need their employees to be creative,
collaborative and fully engaged in satisfying their customers. They must
create an environment in which employees feel free and comfortable to
help co-workers accomplish goals and satisfy customers, according to
Neubert and Hunter.
"Retail owners and managers can benefit from recognizing that servant
leadership behavior can contribute to lower turnover. More organizations
may consider selecting for and cultivating servant leadership qualities
among their managers," said Hunter. "Our results suggest an important
role for personality testing in the selection, promotion, and placement
of managers, particularly when organizations make servant leadership a
Perhaps surprisingly, the study also found that servant leaders in this
organization were more likely to be introverts rather than extroverts.
Managers who are introverts tend to be perceived as servant leaders
because they don't mind working behind the scenes, and they don't have a
need to draw attention to themselves.
"Introverts are more reserved in how they interact with other people and
allow space for others in conversations," Neubert said. "Extroverts
sometimes enjoy taking center stage and might dominate the conversation
and direct the group to go in their direction. The introvert in this
case is willing to listen. They are the ones more likely to be
considered a servant leader along with those who are agreeable. You have
to be agreeable to be a servant leader because a key aspect of being a
servant is focusing on others' interests."
for the study came from a United States retail organization that
includes servant leadership as a core value in its mission and practice.
This organization operates more than 600 stores offering high-end
apparel and personalized customer service. Each store has one store
manager and nine employees, on average. The study surveyed employees in
224 stores, including 425 followers, 110 store managers, and 40 regional
"As organizations continue to embrace the ideals of servant leadership,
we encourage additional study so that managers and scholars alike may
better understand why and how servant leadership affects employees and
organizations," Hunter said.