Servant leadership and job satisfaction in the University of Iceland

Guðjón Ingi Guðjónsson, Sigrún Gunnarsdóttir


Servant leadership is a philosophy of communication and leadership whith focus on decentralization, autonomy, mutual respect and commitment to society. In light of universities’ important societal role and importance of equality of academic staff it is presumed that servant leadership suits a university. Prior research indicates the value of servant leadership for universities’ performance. The purpose of the study was to assess servant leadership in the University of Iceland and its correlation with staff job satisfaction using a new Dutch instrument (SLS) measuring participants’ attitudes to their next superior. A single item job satisfaction question was included. Results showed considerable practice of servant leadership or 4,19 (scale: 1-6) and the strongest servant leadership characteristic was stewardship, followed by forgiveness and empowerment. 82,6% of participants reported job satisfaction with significant positive correlation with servant leadership. The relatively high degree of servant leadership supports previous study of the uiniversity’s working environment but not recent American studies indicating universities’ a low degree of servant leadership. The degree of servant leadership in the University of Iceland was lower compared to grammar schools (6,46) and general hospital wards (4,33) but identical to hospital emergency care units (4,19). Significant positive correlation of servant leadership with job satisfaction, confirms similar relationships in US universities and in various institutions in Iceland. Results indicate the importance of servant leadership for employees’ job satisfaction, not least empowerment and courage, and this has the potential to support peer management, employee independence and social responsibility of the University of Iceland.


Servant leadership; university; University of Iceland; job satisfacation.

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Published by the Institute of Public Administration and Politics of the Faculty of Political Science, University of Iceland.

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