In hospitality, certain management styles can play a crucial role in achieving positive employee outcomes. This study aims to investigate how different leadership styles can contribute to maximizing hospitality workers’ potential. The proposed theoretical model draws on emerging approaches to leadership (paradoxical, empowering, servant) and is tested with structural equation modeling (SEM) using data from 340 employees in Spanish hotels. The findings may be explained by Self-Determination Theory: empowering and paradoxical leadership styles show positive relationships to psychological empowerment. Contrary to expectations, servant leadership style was not an antecedent of psychological empowerment. Furthermore, this study ascertains the positive relationship of empowering and servant leadership styles to engagement. The findings also demonstrate psychological empowerment to be a clear antecedent of job engagement, extending previous research. Implications for hospitality service managers, educators, and researchers are discussed.
The hospitality industry has a unique culture as compared to other industries. It is a sector of frequent interaction between customers and employees, where frontline staff play a crucial role in service delivery (Terglav, Konečnik Ruzzier, & Kaše, 2016). The profitability of hospitality organizations depends on essential employee attitudes and behaviors (Úbeda-García, Claver Cortés, Marco-Lajara, & Zaragoza-Sáez, 2014). Paradoxically, hospitality workers frequently report emotional exhaustion, lack of appreciation, occupational stress, overwork, and low pay (Kim & Agrusa, 2011; Tongchaiprasit & Ariyabuddhiphongs, 2016). In fact, high absenteeism and turnover are also characteristics of these working environments. Further, as Øgaard, Marnburg, and Larsen (2008) highlight, hospitality organizations are conventionally characterized as highly hierarchical, with a predominance of traditional management styles; most hotels follow the classical model of centralized decision making within strict pyramidal organization charts. Nevertheless, in this particular service sector, many unpredicted situations may occur, and if frontline employees are not given responsibility for decision making, they may find it hard to solve problems quickly and provide high-quality customer service (Jha & Nair, 2008). Since every customer and each service experience are different, hospitality employees should have some degree of autonomy and discretion in service delivery - and its recovery, when necessary - to meet customers’ differing needs, demands, and expectations (Ro & Chen, 2011). For this and other reasons, managing people in this special sector involves unique challenges for managers (Bowen & Ford, 2002). On the other hand, several economic and financial variables have pushed companies to new standards, forcing them to redefine business processes in the past decade. Delaying of management structures (in many cases due to downsizing) has been accompanied by a changing balance of power between employer and employee. As a result, new flattened organizational models seem to have emerged in conjunction with changes in the management philosophy. In fact, many organizations have been compelled to shift their traditional pyramidal, top down concept of control towards more flexible and participatory managerial formulas. This change in managers’ roles and responsibilities appears to have required a corresponding regeneration of the types of leadership behavior they employ. Leaders are now required to be more adaptable and people-oriented. New leadership strategies are therefore needed to motivate the 21st-century workforce and to increase their positive psychological capital (Deloitte, 2014).