How and when perceptions of top management bottom-line mentality inhibit supervisors’ servant leadership behavior
Journal of Management
School of Business and Law
Extending existing bottom-line mentality (BLM) perspectives, we provide a new theoretical account of how supervisors’ perceptions of top management BLM influence supervisors’ servant leadership (SL) behavior. Using role theory, we propose that these perceptions inhibit supervisors’ SL behavior by reducing their SL role conceptualization or the extent to which supervisors consider SL part of their work responsibility. Further, given that the process underlying the relationship between perceived top management BLM and supervisor SL behavior may be explained by social learning theory and human adaptive capacity perspectives, we examine the incremental validity of supervisor SL role conceptualization versus supervisor BLM and empathy as mediating mechanisms. We also propose low perspective-taking among supervisors as a boundary condition that exacerbates the negative effect of perceived top management BLM on SL role conceptualization, which then results in less servant leader behavior. Data from two multiwave field studies in China and the United Kingdom provided some support for our hypotheses. Across unique cultural contexts, our findings highlight the value of a role theory perspective in understanding perceptions of top management BLM. We discuss critical theoretical and practical implications of these findings and avenues for subsequent research.