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Dissertation Abstract

Servant Leadership: A Viable Model for the Panamanian Context?

Magda Serrano
Regent University

This study extended Patterson's (2003) theory of servant leadership as it examined the viability and the acceptance of the theory's constructs (love, humility, altruism, vision, trust, empowerment, and service) in the Latin American, specifically Panamanian, context. Through a case study design using qualitative in-depth interviews, five high profile leaders of different sectors of the Panamanian society; such as politics, banking, commerce, industry, and agriculture; were queried to explore their views on the constructs of Patterson's theory and to find out if those constructs were conceptually acceptable and practically applied within the culture. Based on cross-cultural leadership literature, evidencing that leadership practices and effectiveness vary according to the culture where leadership is exercised (Hofsteade, 1980), acceptance of the notion and conception of Patterson's theory with a difference in how the constructs would be enacted or practiced was expected. Through content analysis of the interviews, findings of this study revealed that participants coincided in a conceptual acceptance of the theoretical constructs, considering them good leadership practices. Furthermore, there was also consensus on indicating that there is wide practical application of the constructs evidenced throughout the culture. The scope of the study did not allow a determinant answer as to how the constructs are enacted. Yet, this study did identify conditions that are conducive to the application of the constructs, among which the following stand out: professional development, trustworthiness, loyalty, and positive attitudes. Furthermore, this study identified conditions that present a hindrance for their application, among which the following stand out: selfish motivations, negative attitudes, lack of education, lack of integrity, and lack of humility. Two important implications of this study regarding servant leadership development training design were (a) the need to highlight an appropriate understanding of empowerment and (b) the need to emphasize servant leadership development especially for political leaders as participants identified this sector as most in need of servant leadership.