Hotel manager’s leadership style & CSR perception

          The leadership styles of hotel managers influence their perceptions of corporate social responsibility, according to new research from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

          Although CSR is generally recognized as an important issue across organizations, the researchers note that little consideration has been given to the personal factors that may influence it. Drawing on the results of a survey conducted by the Dr. Basak Denizci Guillet, Professor Ruhi Yaman and Dr. Deniz Kucukusta of PolyU’s School of Hotel and Tourism Management, they show that hotel managers with a professional leadership style incorporating some elements of transformational leadership attach more importance to CSR than counterparts with other styles. This should have an obvious implication for the management recruitment policies of hotels seeking to heighten or maintain their CSR.

          DKNA would like to invite hospitality professionals reading this to contact us via email should you ever 
          have been asked during an job application interview concerning your position vis-a-vis CSR

          The researchers surveyed 181 managers from Hong Kong hotels rated as three stars or above. The majority were supervisors or senior managers, and 45% or 81 of them had been in their current organizations between one and five years. Almost 70% or 126 of the managers were specialists in hospitality and tourism. Just over half were female, and over 80% were between the ages of 31 and 56.

          The managers responded to a series of statements that were aimed at identifying their perceived leadership styles from amongst four commonly identified types: manipulative, bureaucratic, professional and transformational. They were also asked about their perceptions of how important ethics and social responsibility are to organizational effectiveness.

          The managers did indeed recognize four distinct leadership styles, but not precisely in line with expectations. The researchers list a “professional style with a touch of transformational leadership,” a “bureaucratic style with a touch of Machiavellian leadership,” a “transformational style with a touch of bureaucratic leadership,” and a “Machiavellian style.”

          Not all of these styles were actually adopted by the managers. None indicated that they used the Machiavellian style, with its focus on power and control, or the transformational style with a touch of bureaucratic leadership, with its emphasis on a transformational approach even though promotion should still be based on seniority and achievement.

          62.6% or 112 of the managers indicated that they adopted the professional style with a touch of transformational leadership. The researchers note that managers with this style tend to “focus on effectiveness and efficiency and the implementation of policies and procedures.” They “emphasize planning, developing, communicating, and motivating” and develop subordinates by giving them ever more responsibility and authority.

          15% or 27 of the managers indicated that they adopted the bureaucratic style with a touch of Machiavellian leadership. Managers with this style, explain the researchers, tend to focus on organizational rules and bureaucracy, and are concerned with avoiding uncertainty. “Given the influence of traditional management styles in the recent history of Hong Kong,” researchers said, “it is logical to find managers adopting the bureaucratic style.”

          22.6% or 40 of the managers recognized the four styles but adopted a combination of the first and second styles, or what the researchers describe as “an amalgam of the professional and bureaucratic leadership styles.”

          The managers also had three broad perceptions of CSR: a disregard for its importance, a perception of CSR as being a prominent issue for organizations, and a view that CSR was compatible with other elements of running a business. Those managers who disregarded the importance of CSR tended to emphasize other issues such as output quality, communication, profitability and competitiveness. “All of these organizational issues may be the main concern of the managers in making critical decisions,” explain the researchers, “which leads them to easily sacrifice CSR.”

          The managers who considered CSR a prominent issue thought that “all managerial discussions should include CSR” and that “good ethics is good business.” Those who saw CSR as compatible with other elements of running a business were likely to perceive “some compatibility between CSR roles and business, profitability, and effectiveness,” according to the researchers.

          How, then, did particular leadership styles affect perceptions of CSR? This is an important question because the answer could influence how Hong Kong’s hotels shape their management recruitment policies. Managers in all three leadership style groups considered CSR to be prominent before they were ready to see it as only compatible with running a business or to dismiss its importance altogether. This, note the researchers, broadly suggests that “hotel managers in Hong Kong with various leadership styles agree that CSR should be prominent and important for a firm.”

          The leadership styles adopted by managers have long been recognized as playing important roles in creating effective work environments, and have been extensively studied in the hotel industry. Although there is no single most-effective management style, the researchers note that hoteliers in Hong Kong have tended to adopt a traditional style based on following rules and procedures. This focus may achieve organizational efficiency and effectiveness, but does not provide motivation or inspiration for employees. In contrast, those with a transformational leadership style “tend to act more as coaches,” motivating and inspiring their followers by focusing on potential and encouraging self-development.

          CSR has also been subject to increasing attention in the past few years, although not as extensively in relation to the hotel industry. According to the researchers, firms that emphasize CSR activities are concerned with maintaining profitability, operating their businesses within the framework of the law, following codes of conduct that are considered ethically correct, and improving society through philanthropic activities such as work-family programs and donations. As there is usually a positive relationship between CSR activities and firm performance, many firms, including those in the hotel industry, increasingly recognize the importance of being socially responsible

          Source:, 22 April 2013, by the Hong Kong Polytech University

          Daniel Koeppel

          Daniel is an environmental sustainability specialist with a hospitality background. He is passionate in supporting visionary hotel companies wishing to increase their environmental sustainability know how and solutions. Contact us now for a non-committing assessment!

          One Response to Hotel manager’s leadership style & CSR perception

          1. Dear Melody,
            thank you very much for your motivating comments. Its certainly needed in this up hill battle of environmental sustainability consultancy.
            Are you in the hospitality industry yourself? Best regards Daniel.

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