Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Affairs

First Advisor's Name

Sukumar Ganapati

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Meredith Newman

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Co-chair

Third Advisor's Name

Keith D. Revell

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Ochieng F. Walumbwa

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Susannah Bruns Ali

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Sixth Advisor's Name

Sharon Mastracci

Sixth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


Servant leadership, Local government, Public Administration, Servant Identity, Moral Potency, Organizational Social Capital, Co-Production of Public Services

Date of Defense



Servant leaders are driven by a natural feeling to serve first which manifests into a conscious desire to lead. The servant leadership style emphasizes internalizing ethical behavior, along with empathy and service orientation in creating value for the community which is critical in public administration. While the servant leadership concept has gained much interest among business management scholars, it has received little attention in public administration. This dissertation aims to fill this wide gap in public administrative leadership scholarship by investigating the role of servant leadership in public administration.

Specifically, the dissertation seeks to understand individual (servant identity and moral potency) and organizational attributes (organizational social capital and co-production of public service) of servant leadership in local governments. The study is empirically based in Florida, which is a large state with a diverse population and local government characteristics. It uses a mixed-method approach, with complementary quantitative and qualitative analyses. The methods include an online statewide survey of county and city managers and their staff (N=241). The data are analyzed using hierarchical linear modeling. The analysis is complemented with three in-depth case studies of county and city governments to explain how servant leadership manifested.

The study holds two key findings. First, servant identity (calling, humility, empathy, and agape love) and moral potency (moral ownership, moral courage, and moral efficacy) attributes are significant predictors of servant leadership behavior among county and city managers. Servant identity correlates with putting the interests of the employees, community, and the organization above their own. The quest for serving others drives servant leaders’ ethical actions. Second, county and city managers who are servant leaders enhance organizational social capital and co-production of public services by encouraging community-centric approaches. They create a service climate that inspires a community-engaged culture. They instill trust among both internal (employees, elected officials) and external organizational stakeholders (nonprofits, community organizations, and citizens) through continuous engagement.

Overall, this study shows the significance of servant leadership for public administration and management. It suggests that servant leadership offers advantages over traditional (e.g. transformational and transactional) approaches which are inwardly oriented. Servant leadership goes beyond to serve the community and could be instrumental in strengthening democratic governance.






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