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Dissertation Abstract

Investigating the Distinctions Between 
Transformational and Servant Leadership

Jeanine Parolini
February 2007

Although transformational leadership and servant leadership have been in existence since the late 1970s (Burns, 1978; Greenleaf, 1977) and theoretical assumptions about the differences between the two leaders began as early as the 1990s (Graham, 1991), this study is the first empirical investigation of the distinctions between transformational and servant leaders. Through a review of the literature, 19 contrasting statements or semantic differential scales were formed about the differences between the two leaders. Additionally, self-typing paragraphs describing transformational and servant leaders were developed. The scales and paragraphs were reviewed by a panel of experts, formed into an online survey, and sent to 56 randomly sampled contacts who agreed to distribute the survey in for-profit, non-profit, academic, and religious organizations. Of the 2,162 employees, followers, and/or volunteers who received the survey, 514 participated. Of the 19 scales, discriminant analysis clearly reveals five statistically significant scales (p =.000) or discriminant items that differentiate between transformational and servant leaders. The five statistically significant discriminant items include the leader’s: (a) primary focus on meeting the needs of the organization or individual, (b) first inclination to lead or to serve, (c) primary allegiance and focus toward the organization or individual, (d) customary or unconventional approach to influencing others, and (e) attempt to control or give freedom through influence and persuasion. The five discriminant items should be integrated into leadership and organizational development practices in various types of organizations to differentiate between the need for transformational or servant leadership, to assure the selection of either a transformational or servant leader in hiring or other processes, to determine the type of training or coaching to offer depending upon whether the leader is a transformational or servant leader, and to select and apply the appropriate strategic processes depending upon the need for transformational or servant leadership. Differentiating between the two leaders can assure a good fit between a leader and an organization or process. Furthermore, the statistically significant discriminant items can inform the literature and future research on the two leadership styles.