Win-win leadership

Study involving IFT scholar views positive impacts on employee behaviour wrought by ‘servant’ leadership

Research Corner | A partnership between Macau Business and the Institute for Tourism Studies (IFT)

A so-called ‘people-centred’ style of business leadership can have a trickle-down effect on employees, says an academic study involving a scholar from Macau’s Institute for Tourism Studies. This type of leadership – known as ‘servant leadership’ among academics studying such matters – can lead to positive impacts at different levels in relations between employees, and the people with whom they interact, it is argued.

“Our results demonstrated that servant leadership promotes employees’ interpersonal citizenship behaviours directed at multiple stakeholders, including leaders, co-workers, and customers,” wrote IFT assistant professor Ali Bavik and research co-authors Yuen Lam Bavik and Pok Man Tang. They added that such “positive linkages were mediated by employee job crafting”. The latter was a reference to the part employees can take in relation to their own job role, its demands and each person’s access to available workplace resources; all with the aim of either attaining or optimising the individual employee’s personal work goals.

The paper, “Servant Leadership, Employee Job Crafting, and Citizenship Behaviors: A Cross-Level Investigation”, was published last year in the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly.

The study results were based on questionnaires answered by 238 respondents. The sample comprised people working in five-star hotels in Macau, and included employees and their immediate leaders in a total of 38 teams.

Servant leadership, job crafting

“Taking a novel multilevel perspective on leadership, results of our study showed that employee job crafting, as a behavioural pathway, channels the positive effect of team-level servant leadership on individual employees’ performance outcome in the form of citizenship behaviours,” the authors wrote. “Our results indicated that servant leadership represents a social context that offers employees autonomy and a credible referent for learning how to reinvent their job by mobilising the available structural and social resources.”

Dr. Bavik and his fellow researchers added that servant leaders “empower their followers to maximise their capabilities and to develop their potential to the fullest, thus providing the autonomy employees require for job crafting”. In addition, they stated, servant leadership helps its adherents to work with the employees so that the latter can achieve what the authors termed ‘personal growth’, engage in forward thinking and planning, and find ways to improve job performance. “Servant leaders exert efforts in offering their resources and assistance for employees to master new skills and attain work goals,” the authors said.

In the paper, the researchers argued that servant leadership was “particularly relevant” for motivating individual employees to play an active role in accessing workplace resources in order to gain greater job satisfaction. “Job crafting serves as a means for employees to physically and cognitively alter the psychological experience of their work,” they noted. “Through job crafting, employees may achieve a higher level of work engagement, performance, and psychological well-being.”

Management lessons

Dr. Bavik and his fellow researchers wrote in the paper that the results of their research could be helpful to hospitality executives. “We suggest that organisations can utilise servant leadership and job crafting training to increase employees’ citizenship behaviours,” they wrote, referring to positive actions by individuals directed at co-workers and customers, among other stakeholders.

The authors said hotel managers “could create and/or improve work content and quality as well as ensure that employees have sufficient resources to craft and enhance their work”. In this way, Dr. Bavik and his fellow researchers noted, “employees can potentially increase collaboration with their co-workers and customer-oriented behaviours.”

The team added that managers could even “co-craft” job profiles in partnership with subordinates. “Mutual sharing may increase the potential outcomes of job crafting, and to some extent managers may have some control in the crafting process”, they added.

Job crafting however could under some circumstances lead to negative outcomes, the authors warned. “Managers should consider the nature and/or standardisation level of work and provide clear guidance about organisational ideology, work framework, and work limitations,” they stated.

The researchers

Ali Bavik is an assistant professor at the Institute for Tourism Studies (IFT). He has a PhD from the University of Otago in New Zealand. His research interests include hospitality management, organisational culture, tourist behaviour, hospitality marketing, and leadership and organisational behaviour. Dr. Bavik has published a number of articles in academic journals and conference papers in topics related to tourism and hospitality management. He has presented his research work at major conferences both in Macau and overseas.

Yuen Lam Bavik is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Management and Marketing at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Her research interests cover emotions, social support, resources, and leadership. Her works have been published in the Leadership Quarterly, Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, and International Journal of Hospitality Management.

Pok Man Tang is a PhD student in the Department of Management and Organization at the National University of Singapore. His research interests include leadership, ethics, emotions, deviance, and humor. His research has been published in internationally renowned journals such as Leadership Quarterly. Prior to his PhD study, he has served managerial and consultancy positions in investment banking, multi-national retail group, and hybrid organizations.

The Paper

Ali Bavik, Yuen Lam Bavik and Pok Man Tang: “Servant Leadership, Employee Job Crafting, and Citizenship Behaviors: A Cross-Level Investigation”, Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, Volume 58, Issue 4, pages 364–373, 2017.