Investigating Servant Leadership in the Context of Cause-Related Sporting Events
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This dissertation presents three separate studies designed to provide systematic and evidence-based insight into how servant leadership could be a crucial success factor in helping non-profit organizations (NPOs) hosting cause-related sporting events achieve their missions. Thus, the purpose of my dissertation was to advance the literature and the practice of servant leadership. In Study one, I conducted a systematic literature review of studies that explored an application of servant leadership. A disciplined screening process resulted in a sample population of 39 studies. The synthesis of these applied studies revealed: a) there is no consensus on the definition of servant leadership; b) servant leadership is being applied across a variety of contexts, cultures, and themes; c) researchers are using multiple measures to explore servant leadership; and d) these studies provide strong evidence that servant leadership helps organizations and improves the well-being of followers. In Study two, I explored the leadership style of the founder of a cause-related sporting event to understand how this leadership style motivated volunteers. This was achieved through semi-structured personal interviews, document analysis, and personal observations of the 25th National Kidney Foundation (NKF) Surf Festival. Results indicated that the founder was a servant leader who influenced volunteer motivation by generating a shared vision dedicated to helping others, building a caring and loving community, and creating the freedom and resources for followers to become servants themselves. In Study three, using a longitudinal case study, I qualitatively explored if a cause-related sporting event could inspire participants to become servant leaders, and if so, how does the event achieve this? Data collection methods included focus groups, open-ended qualitative questionnaires, direct observations, document analysis, and semi-structured personal interviews with participants of the U.S. NKF Transplant Games, specifically Team Florida. Analyses revealed the event inspired participants to serve others and helped to build a community of servant leaders. It was found that three specific mechanisms of the Games generated community-level outcomes, which led to impacts on participants and helped them develop servant leadership. I then developed a model to describe a cause-related sporting event's ability to inspire participants to become servant leaders.
cause-related sporting events
non-profit leadership and management
Parris, Denise (2011). Investigating Servant Leadership in the Context of Cause-Related Sporting Events. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from