Leadership theories provide guidance, methods, and models for effective leaders. Many leadership theories, such as transactional, transformational, and servant leadership, identify a set of leadership traits or behaviors an effective leader possesses. Robert Greenleaf's (1970) servant leadership theory and characteristics have endured for decades. Greenleaf's servant leadership theory has resurfaced and grown in popularity as evidence by his work being widely cited in new publications, leadership journals, and articles on servant leadership (e.g., Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, and Peter Senge). A number of authors have studied Eunice Kennedy Shriver and written about her leadership style, but no one to date has conducted an analysis to determine if her characteristics match those of a servant leader. This dissertation was a historical case study to recognize the leadership of Shriver and analyze the supposition that she was a servant leader. Shriver had the vision that became the Special Olympics movement that transformed the lives of people with intellectual disabilities and their families and communities worldwide. The fact that under the leadership of Shriver the Special Olympics achieved global success makes a study of her leadership style significant to the field of organizational leadership. This qualitative case study sought to determine if leadership behaviors of the research subject, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, exemplified the 10 characteristics (behaviors) of servant leadership as defined by Robert Greenleaf (1970) and Larry Spears (1995, 1998b). Servant leadership is the antithesis of leadership in much of corporate America. For decades, American managers of large corporations and the military have applied an autocratic (command and control) style of leadership. Servant leaders are selfless and seek to invest in the people they lead by genuinely caring about them and their success. They understand that success is realized through the efforts of their followers over selfinterest (Greenleaf, 1977). Leadership can be a company's competitive advantage, and servant leadership can be the key element. Laub (1999) and Parolini (2004) found that organizations that fostered a servant leadership culture capitalized on the skills of both their employees and their leaders, which led to greater employee engagement and profitability (Block, 1993; Wheatley, 2005).

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Shriver, Eunice Kennedy; Servant leadership; Leadership -- Case studies

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

DellaNeve, James;