An action research study of a leadership development programme in the hotel industry

Cooke, Hilary (2016) An action research study of a leadership development programme in the hotel industry. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


Many organisations view leadership as a feature of competitive advantage and competent leaders as instrumental in achieving organisational performance and productivity.

In the hotel industry, there is a strong relationship between leadership culture and leader behaviour with employee satisfaction, loyalty, and productivity that has a subsequent impact on service quality, profitability and growth. Consequently, many hospitality organisations invest significantly in the development of their leaders using a variety of internal and external Human Resource Development HRD interventions and practitioners.

A key challenge for HRD practitioners in this setting is to design and deliver effective leadership development interventions that provide relevant learning that is transferred to the workplace for individuals and management teams. However, the learning approach is not the only concern and transfer is a crucial element of effectiveness, particularly where the practice setting of the workshop, where skills and knowledge are gained, is very different from the business setting where they are to be applied and so the concept of far-transfer must be factored in to the design and delivery.

This case study reviews the evolution, design, delivery, evaluation and training transfer of a large scale Leadership Development programme for managers in a single organisation in the hotel industry, carried out by an independent HRD consultant practitioner and submitted as a thesis for a Practitioner Doctorate in Personnel and Development. The participants were all members of management teams operating within the UK and Continental Europe.

This action research account treats the stages of the programme as four separate yet connected cycles, each with discrete practitioner-researcher concerns. Researcher and practitioner questions arising out of an initial diagnostic and alignment activity led to programme design and delivery considerations. These were followed by evaluation and subsequent transfer enquiries. Through these cycles, core questions at the heart of HRD consultant practice in a real world situation were explored. These relate to creating and providing effective interventions that facilitate the required sustainable behaviour changes within the client system, recognising that the criteria for how effectiveness is defined, identified and evaluated are multi-variant and highly likely to be unique in each case.

A key outcome is the development of the concept of Inspirational Leadership as a potentially relevant model for developing leader effectiveness in this setting underpinned by Fundamental Interpersonal Relationship Orientation (FIRO) Theory as the central behavioural model.

A structured Training Intervention Framework (TIF) is also proposed as a holistic methodology for the diagnosis, design and delivery of similar interventions in order to create a robust strategy and tactics for training interventions to occur. This is presented as a theoretical contribution to professional practice for HRD practitioners for future interventions in similar settings.

CookeHilary - Final Thesis Complete.pdf - Published Version

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