How can a servant leader focusing primarily on followers' growth and well-being influence the achievement of organizational outcomes? Despite a growing stream of academic studies exploring positive outcomes of servant leadership practice, little is known empirically about the underlying psychological processes that are activated to enhance individual performance at work. Using the autonomous motivational framework of Self-Determination Theory's (SDT) basic psychological needs (Ryan & Deci, 2000), we propose that a servant leader's attentive focus on employees' development helps fulfill employees' three basic psychological needs, namely for autonomy, competence and relatedness. In turn, satisfaction of each of these three needs fuels employees in a distinct way, either producing an increase in task performance, organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) or both. We collected information from 247 supervisor–employee dyads from a large Canadian technology design and manufacturing company. Structural equation modeling results indicate that servant leadership strongly predicted all three needs' satisfaction; autonomy need satisfaction mediated servant leadership's effect on task performance, OCB-Individual (OCB-I) and OCB-Organization (OCB-O); competence need satisfaction mediated servant leadership's effect on task performance only; and relatedness need satisfaction mediated servant leadership's effect on both OCB-I and OCB-O.
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