The interaction between servant leadership and organizational culture: an NCAA Division III case study

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit

Nutrition Exercise and Health Sciences

Publication Date




Servant leadership is primarily focused on the empowerment and moral development of followers (Burton et al., 2017). Within sports research, little is known about how servant leadership interacts with organizational culture in teams. Thus, the purpose of this study is to assess the servant leadership of one head baseball coach and examine the degree to which servant leadership affects the program's culture.


Data were collected for this case study of an NCAA Division III head baseball coach throughout one academic year. Sources included 12 interviews (ranging from four minutes to 92 min), observation of practices and games, textual analysis of documents and websites, as well as the coach's reflection journal. Data were analyzed using a six-phase process of thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2006).


The participant exhibited the following servant leadership behaviors: empowering, helping subordinates grow and succeed, behaving ethically, and conceptual skills (Liden et al., 2015, 2008). In addition, the program maintained a culture featuring a few distinct artifacts, very clear espoused values, and three deeply held basic assumptions. The findings suggest that the head coach used servant leadership not to create or change culture but instead to amplify the existing culture of the baseball program.


There is strong evidence of a link between servant leadership and team culture, which is context-bound. At the Division III level, servant leadership behaviors can be used to embody a program's culture. Furthermore, through this embodiment, servant leaders can perpetuate an effective, functioning team culture, particularly within intercollegiate athletics.


This article was originally published in Sport, Business and Management. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Sport, Business and Management


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