Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Joshua D. Henson

Second Advisor

Dr. Thomas Gollery

Third Advisor

D. Paul Boardman


This dissertation was an exploration of the effect that public service motivation (PSM) has on leaders’ distributive leadership style (DLS). Years of service as a leader in government for more than 5 years managing five or more employees was considered as a moderating variable, with the expectation that as years of service increased, the moderating affect it has on the relationship between PSM and DLS would also increase. This was a cross-sectional, quantitative research project employing a moderation model to address the extent to which years of public service moderate the potential statistical relationship between the distributed leadership style and public service motivation. The sample was purposively selected, the method of data collection was an online survey, and the method of data analysis was multiple regression analysis. The research questions were (a) To what extent does PSM covary with the distributed leadership style among public sector managers? and (b) To what extent does years of service moderate the extent to which PSM covaries with the distributed leadership style among public sector managers? The key findings included a statistically significant relationship between PSM and DLS, and years of service having no statistically significant relationship with PSM, directly or indirectly. There was a significant relationship regarding employees with 21 or more years of service, and moderation of PSM and DLS, indicating that employees with 21 or more years with high levels of PSM may prefer DLS. The implications of these findings include that PSM could be an indicator of DLS among employees, these research findings could assist decision-making regarding hiring and promoting public sector employees to managerial positions and as PSM was considered to have a positive and statistically significant relationship with the distributed leadership style, the suggestion that individuals who are highly motivated to serve the public are relatively willing to distribute their leadership authorities—even if just informally—can ensure the efficient and effective provision of public goods and services.