Called to serve: Exploring servant leadership in the context of sport-for-development

Janelle E. Wells, Jon Welty-Peachey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Servant leaders emphasise the ideal of service and focus on the well-being of followers. To determine how, if at all, the founder and regional coordinators of a non-profit, sport-for-development (SFD) organisation exhibited servant leadership behaviours, 14 semi-structured interviews were conducted. The context for this study was Street Soccer USA (SSUSA), an innovative SFD organisation utilising soccer to help youth and adults overcome homelessness in 22 cities across the U.S. Findings revealed that the founder and regional coordinators of SSUSA, to varying degrees, displayed servant leadership behaviours as perceived by their followers, which align with van Dierendonck’s1 six dimensions of servant leadership: authenticity, empowering and developing people, humility, interpersonal acceptance, providing direction, and stewardship. Additionally, to undergird SSUSA, the founder and regional coordinators gave primacy to followers’ needs, building and developing relationships with their volunteers and players, demonstrating an attitude of genuine care and concern. Servant leadership might be useful leadership behaviour to implement and guide SFD initiatives.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-24
JournalJournal of Sport for Development
Issue number7
StatePublished - Dec 2016


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