Date of Conferral

2017

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Management

Advisor

David K. Banner

Abstract

Servant leadership (SL), a universal, ethical leadership style, consistently produces high performance and employee engagement. For the last two decades, lack of business ethics in decision making by senior leaders has resulted in many negative outcomes, such as the WorldCom scandal. The purpose of this descriptive phenomenological study was to identify and report the lived experiences of senior leaders in relation to decision making in SL organizations in the southwestern United States. The study's theoretical/conceptual foundations encompassed Maslow's motivation theories, decision theory, spirituality, spiritual intelligence, Cicero's virtue theory of ethics, and Greenleaf's SL. Data collection involved the use of semistructured interviews with a purposive sample of 18 participants who were senior leaders of SL organizations. Data analysis employed Giorgi's method whereby phenomenological reduction revealed meaning units, and psychological reduction reached descriptive psychological structures of experiences by hand coding and integrative data analysis software. Findings confirmed senior leaders' ethical decision making in SL organizations. Recommendations include addressing ethical decision making in team leadership at the board and operational levels and examining the interrelation of CEO ethical leadership and firm performance. Conclusions reached confirm a prevailing structure of experiences as collaborative, interdependent, egalitarian teamwork, a family metaphor. Application of the findings of this study may result in positive social change by fostering a more ethical, kinder capitalism in everyday life and in building community with more servant leaders and SL organizations.