Original Research

The validation of the servant leadership scale

Anton Grobler, Aden-Paul Flotman
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 46 | a1754 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v46i0.1754 | © 2020 Anton Grobler, Aden-Paul Flotman | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 21 October 2019 | Published: 17 June 2020

About the author(s)

Anton Grobler, Graduate School of Business Leadership (SBL), University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Aden-Paul Flotman, Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

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Orientation: When opening any newspaper across the globe, the dominant narrative appears to be a driving obsessive preoccupation with how leaders consciously and often unconsciously create a working environment that serves their personal interests, fears and desires. This treacherous preoccupation inevitably influences a person’s leadership style and leadership agenda and therefore stands in direct opposition to what come to be known as servant leadership.

Research purpose: The purpose of this article was to validate the 7-item servant leadership questionnaire (SLQ7) within the South African context.

Motivation for the study: Owing to the emergence of the notion of servant leadership in South Africa, there exists a need for a valid measure of servant leadership in an organisational setting. Many leadership instruments developed in foreign countries (also the SLQ) are merely used by leadership scholars without assessing its transferability to that specific context, and this poses scientific and ethical challenges.

Research approach/design and method: A convenience sample of 1764 respondents, employed in both private and public sectors (employed in 31 different organisations), relatively well representative of the South African workforce in general, was used for this study.

Main findings: An exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis yielded a one-factor solution of servant leadership that has acceptable psychometric and fit properties. The instrument was further found to have adequate convergent validity (compared with cognate leadership and organisational behaviour constructs).

Practical/managerial implications: The SLQ7 version was found to be suitable for use across different samples, including the private and public sectors, and could be used with confidence within the South African context.

Contribution/valu e-add: This study’s contribution to science, practice and the community is based on the importance of the servant leadership construct when leading people, specifically in the South African (and African) context. The study confirms the servant leadership scale as a valid and reliable measuring instrument in the South African context and, determines how servant leadership impacts organisational behaviour within the South African and African context.


leadership; servant leadership; validation; servant leadership scale; Afrocentric.


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