Servant Leadership Framework for Project Management

Subject: Leadership Styles
Pages: 10
Words: 2697
Reading time:
11 min
Study level: PhD


Within project headship, investigators have explored the idea of leadership widely (Gehring, 2007). The investigators focused on highlighting the significance of project management as a crucial element of project success. Their findings implied that more challenging marketplace situations needed better attention to headship, awareness, and work-based knowledge in ensuring project successes. They in addition deemed that flourishing project results would need a boosted focus on not only the structural but also on human factors of project leadership (Kumar, 2000).

Despite the numerous studies, a project manager continues to face various drawbacks and hitches regarding headship, for example, headship approach, pressure, risk, teamwork, impetus, and training (Berg & Karlsen, 2007). Gehring, 2007 claimed that the successful completion of any project relied more on human aspects like project headship, support from senior management, and project group, instead of technical aspects. Gehring in addition realized that the human elements grew in significance as a project increased in involvedness, uncertainty, and novelty. The researcher noted that the important task of the project leader’s headship capability was directly correlated to project success (Gehring, 2007).

The report by Kumar (2000) indicated that challenges associated with flourishing project results and unavoidably the resolution to realizing project goals that meet shareholders’ anticipations come from staff in management positions and the procedure utilized by project leaders. An investigation carried out by Zhang and Faerman found that 90% of projects were unsuccessful due to pitiable headship (Zhang & Faerman, 2007). The outcomes also indicated that pitiable headship knowledge showed ineffective or no teamwork, insufficient communication, and incapability of resolving the crisis in addition to other human-based inefficiencies. A headship framework that has been deemed effective in enhancing the human aspects of public relations, inspiration, decision-making, and expressive level necessary for mobilizing project group participants is servant-headship (Berg & Karlsen, 2007).

Kezar (2001) describes servant-headship as participative headship, which takes into account the head’s capability of incorporating, discussing, taking ideas, looking for methods of aiding individuals to come together, and being part of all successes that come from the project. Goonan (2008) described Mississippi Hospital as a case that illustrated servant-headship allowing a firm in delivering quality client relationships. This medical center, the biggest countryside health center in the U.S was given a quality prize. The health facility credited its success to its managers’ implementation of servant-headship guidelines.

Servant headship symbolizes a framework of headship whereby the leaders assume encouraging, service-based roles among shareholders and team members. The leaders serve by developing the skills of team members, eradicating hindrances, promoting novelty, and encouraging innovative problem-solving. The features related to servant headship comprise integrating dynamic listening, understanding, caring, responsiveness, negotiation, idealization, insight, mentorship, dedication to empowering individuals, and society development (Spears, 2002). A check of servant headship against project success can give a project leader data necessary for improving headship insight and project performance. Based on this background, this present research explored the correlation between servant headship and project success. Despite the utilization of project leadership models, the number of unsuccessful projects is quite high. It is believed that good headship is required for positive project results, but still, there is inadequate pragmatic study associating project success with headship. It is believed that servant-headship promotes the human aspects critical for mobilizing project stakeholders (Spears, 2002). The need for inclusive research within these concepts resulted in this study. This study focused on providing extra knowledge into headship within project coordination through the determination of whether there is a correlation between the servant headship model and project success.


Research by Berg and Karlsen (2007) found that projects’ procedural aspects comprise only 51% of the complexity to execute and complete projects. The researchers also claimed that the remaining 49% of the complexity included the human and structural elements of team working and headship, with most of the human aspects being associated with headship. A project leader has a dual role when leading projects: 1) coordinating the technical aspects of the projects (i.e. planning, scheduling, budgeting, evaluating, monitoring, and controlling different skills areas and practices), and 2) coordinating the team members with a view of motivating the group to effectively meet the project objectives (Berg and Karlsen, 2007).

Headship models like transformational or transactional headship, aimed at the organization and therefore ineffective in explaining behaviors that were humane, or employee based. The use of servant-headship, which is an employee based better describes the humane behaviors that are portrayed by the manager. The value of servant-headship is considered as a qualitative characteristic that is part of the leader’s value and comprises of the moral aspects of being nice, admirable, or faithful. These moral values described servant-heads and related mindsets, values, and approaches (Patterson, 2003). The available literature on servant headship focuses chiefly on organizational headship, and not particularly project management. The available material and experiential records particularly practicing servant headship in project leadership are unavailable. Most of the present study on project headship correlates to headship as an aspect of management. Also, the study of headship and management did in enterprise and overall leadership excluded project leadership (Gehring, 2007).


The problem is that projects continue failing because of unsuccessful headship. Experiential proof proposes servant headship as an outline that could help in eliminating most of the headship setbacks encountered during project management. The purpose of this present research is to contribute to the current literature on project leadership through an investigation of whether or not servant-headship can be a suitable framework for enhancing project performance. The research utilized quantitative descriptive approaches in determining whether a correlation exists between servant headship and project success.

The objective of the research

The study focused on identifying the extent to which the servant-headship approach contributes toward positive project results. The research studied the aspects that cause positive project results in addition to evaluating how servant headship correlates with project leadership capabilities.

Research question and hypothesis

The research was a quantitative-descriptive study evaluating whether the utilization of servant headship will affect project performance. The magnitude of project execution letdown and the capability of headship to aid reduce the problem guided this research. The following study query directed the suggested research: what is the relation, if any, between positive project results and the utilization of servant-headship? The study as well sought to strengthen this key query through an investigation of the impacts that headship coaching, project leader exposure, size of the project, and team size, have on project performance. The hypothesis: there is no correlation between project performance and the project leader paying attention to other members of the implementation team was utilized in testing the study question.


The researcher made the following assumptions:

  • Servant headship can impact project performance.
  • The headship knowledge of the project team leader influences projects performance.
  • A participant in the research will have information on and is knowledgeable in the aspects of the servant-headship approach.
  • Management and headship knowledge utilized to manage projects is an essential aspect affecting project performance.

Theoretical approaches of headship

The investigation on managers and the management practice originates from socio-economic organizational behavior (Northouse, 2004). From the early 1960s to the beginning of 2006 there have been roughly 70 diverse categorizations of headship (Pierce & Newstrom, 2006). The focus of this research investigated headship from two viewpoints. Headship is seen as the capability of making strategic decisions utilizing communication. Second is the human knowledge on public relations, encouragement, decision-making, and expressive level (Northouse, 2004). There is, however, a set of headship frameworks that may be appropriate in tackling the various setbacks facing project managers. These include Situational, transformational, transactional, contingency, and servant leadership. This study focused on servant headship. The servant headship framework is based on certain postulations, being an approach that agrees that many projects fail in tapping into the ability of its team members. Gehring (2007) proposed that a leader who adopted servant headship seeks in generating a capitalist environment in which a team member feels accountable to create projects that inspire him.

Kumar (2000) portrayed servant headship as a method of leading that initially was considered to be great, not present in companies. It was Kumar’s (2000) perspective that headship has to be founded on the desire to serve other people and to help them become better, knowledgeable, trustworthy, democratic, and better servants. He viewed servant headship as the authority focused on stimulating and inspiring most individuals in adopting a more considerate, serving form of headship. Servant headship, compared to the more ancient frameworks of headship, starts with a motivation of leading other people (Berg and Karlsen, 2007).

Patterson (2003) expected that the contemporary company would be designed as a group of stakeholders, as a company of equal opportunities, which would be not defined by relation descriptors such as senior and junior staff. He additionally claimed that the servant manager concept accredited to a team member the same potential as a leader. A team member can and is anticipated to act equally during official leadership and decision-making just as the manager. The team concept proposes an emerging method of reasoning in which a project leader makes mindful efforts to place team members over gains.

A successful project team needs to be selectively and methodically established. The aspects that are necessary for success depend on individual project attributes, and individual team, and are associated with its explicit mission, goal, purpose, and value. Project teams rely on specific operation groups instead of active units as the main operation sections. Opposed to ancient active units, a project team tends to depend on an inter-functional, democratic team with little or no need for supervision of the management task (Gehring, 2007).

Research methodology

This was a quantitative descriptive investigation assessing whether relations exist between servant headship and project performance. Quantitative descriptive approaches were selected for this research because they allow the researcher to explore correlations between variables by validating the hypothesis (Pierce & Newstrom, 2006). The research utilized one hypothesis focused on identifying if relationships exist between the research’s dependent and independent variables. The outcomes of this research were utilized in addressing the hypothesis, provisional assumptions revolving around the interaction of the background aspects, generated from the study query.

The research utilized a self-assessed review utilizing Likert-based, in addition to open and closed-ended queries. This kind of survey has a small turnaround in outcomes, generates the likelihood of doing many surveys within time limits, and is generally less expensive concerning administration. Finally, the data collected was stored electronically for easy analysis. The study sample consisted of people who are part of the Project Implementation College (PIC) and who have experience in project start-up and execution. Participants comprise partners of the project cycle: people in the management, supervisory, implementation team, suppliers, and customers. Utilizing the electronic facility of the questionnaires were distributed to participants.

Data collection and data analysis

An electronic survey, utilizing the engine, was utilized in collecting data for the research. The data gathering methodology was favored for two conditions: enabled self-administration and allowed quick data gathering. The hypothesis was tested with a view of determining whether a relationship existed between servant headship and project performance. Northouse (2004) asserted that each sample will differ from its population, thus, the statistical measures must be assessed. The research comprised a sample from an individual population. As a result, a one-sample test, utilizing chi-square, was utilized in determining the statistical significance between the anticipated and actual distribution mean as per the null hypothesis. The expected degree of significance was 0.05 because this degree is linked to a lesser uncertainty of being inaccurate. A 2-tailed analysis was in addition carried out utilizing X-tabulations for showing the relationship between various variables because the directions of variation were affirmed in the null hypothesis.

The main variables analyzed were project performance, as the dependent aspect of the study, and features of servant headship, as the independent variables. The data were analyzed utilizing excel and the significance of the correlations between these variables were computed.


Forty-eight (48) participants responded to the survey; forty-four (44) participants duly completed their survey. Four (4) of the participants who responded to the survey were disqualified since their feedback was not complete. 50.4% of the respondents were females and the remaining 49.6% were males. The age of participants was classified into three classes: 25-35, 36-45, and over 46. The majority, 42.4% aged between 36 and 45 years, followed by 36.5% who were aged over 46 years, and 21.1% of the respondents were aged between 25 and 35 years. Most of the responses, 52.3%, came from participants who were at the management level, followed by 20.5% of the respondents who were from the implementation team (Table 1).

Table 1: Participants task in projects

Frequency %
Management level 21 52.2
Implementation team 8 20.3
Project coordinator 4 10
Client 3 7.5
Administrative Support 1 2.5
Other 3 7.5
Total 40 100.0

Information was gathered to determine the indicators of positive project results. The frequency evaluation for the indicator: project finished as scheduled showed that 84.7% of the respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that project schedule was a factor for positive project results (Table 2).

Table 2: Performance Indicator-Project finished as scheduled

Frequency %
Strongly agreed 16 40.5
Agreed 18 44.2
Slightly Agreed 3 7.7
Neutral 0 0
Slightly Disagreed 2 5
Strongly Disagreed 1 2.6
Total 40 100.0

The regularity evaluation for the indicator: pleasant effect on clients by the project’s completed outcome showed that 84.7% of the respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that effect on clients was a factor of positive project results (Table 3).

Table 3: Performance Indicator-Project outcome positively influences client

Frequency %
Strongly agreed 16 40.5
Agreed 18 44.2
Slightly Agreed 2 5
Neutral 1 2.6
Slightly Disagreed 3 7.7
Strongly Disagreed 0 0
Total 40 100.0

Testing hypothesis

One non-parametric test of significance, utilizing chi-square testing, was carried out. For the null hypothesis, based on assessing the aspects of servant headship, a single test was done. This procedure was utilized in testing for significant variation between the observed distribution and the anticipated distribution as per the null hypothesis (Northouse, 2004). The variations between observed frequencies were correlated with the hypothesized frequency. A confidence level (CL) of 95% was utilized in accepting or rejecting the research’s hypothesis. With a view of achieving 95%, CL asymptotic significance levels equal to or less than have to be attained.


Regarding the hypothesis that there is no correlation between project performance and the project leader paying attention to other members of the implementation team, the Pearson 1-scaled chi-square analysis recorded a significance degree of zero (see fig. 1). The observed distribution when correlated with the anticipated distribution as per the null hypothesis shows the presence of a significant variation between anticipated and actual. The linear relationship significance is zero (Asymptotic sig.) based on the aspect dedicated to paying attention to other project members; because the value is <0.05 the null hypothesis was nullified. Scatter diagrams of the data analyzing the hypothesis and the matching linear regression are as indicated in appendix 1. Regression computation was carried out with a view of determining whether a linear relation was present between the null hypothesis’s variables. The R2 linear value justifies 0.73 percent of the data difference, therefore, suggesting the existence of a linear correlation.

Chi-Square test measuring listening skill
Figure 1: Chi-Square test measuring listening skill


The result of this research supports the theoretical guideline that servant headship plays an important task to influence the headship of projects and aspects necessary for positive project results. The experiential data in the literature proposed servant headship as a framework that could be utilized in reducing most of the setbacks encountered by project leaders. The null hypothesis, aimed at determining if there was a relation between servant headship feature of adequate listening and positive project performance, the experiential assessment nullified the hypothesis. The outcomes indicated positive relations between the aspect of positive project results and the team leader’s dedication to paying attention to the team members. Generally, the outcomes of the research showed an extreme relationship between indicators of project performance and the assumption that servant-manager characteristics influence project success. Findings associated with the survey that were not part of the hypothesis validation, in addition, indicated that a project leader who applied servant headship can have more positive project results. Realistic implication based on findings is that a project manager who strives in becoming a more successful leader can do so through the development of his/her headship attributes and potentials.


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Gehring, D. R. (2007). Applying traits theory of leadership to project management. Project Management Journal, 38(1), 44-54.

Goonan, K., & Muzikowski, J. (2008). Baldrige: Myths and realities. Hospitals & Health Networks, 82(5), 84-85.

Kezar, A. (2001). Investigating organizational fit in a participatory leadership environment. Journal of Higher Education Policy & Management, 23(1), 85-101.

Kumar, S. (2000). Reengineering: A focus on enterprise integration. Interfaces, 30(5), 54-72.

Northouse, P. (2004). Leadership: Theory and practice (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Patterson, K. (2003). Servant leadership: A theoretical model (Doctorial Dissertation. Regent University, Brisbane, Australia). Web.

Pierce, L., & Newstrom, W. (2006). Leaders & the leadership process. New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Spears, L. C. (2002). Focus on leadership: Servant leadership for the 21st century. New York: Wiley.

Zhang, J., & Faerman, S. (2007). Distributed leadership in the development of a knowledge-sharing system. European Journal of Information Systems, 16(4), 479-494.


Appendix 1: Scatter Plot of Hypothesis 1 Data

Scatter Plot of Hypothesis 1 Data