Is Western leadership development fit for purpose? -- A Case Study of an International Hotel based in China.


  • Wen Li Liverpool John Moores University



The rapidly developing hotel industry in China made a total profit of 3,791 billion RMB and accounted for 0.7 percent of the GDP and 0.6 percent of the total workforce. Amidst this rapid development, China’s labor-intensive hotel industry faces several challenges, leadership development being seen to enhance the situation.

Several studies which related to leadership development in international hotels conducted under western context and theories. The most leadership development studies have been developed in Western economics, which ignores the cultural, political, and labor market differences of leadership development (Chow, 2021; Dai et al, 2013).

Through the upstanding of leadership development theories, I assumed that the Western concept of leadership development may not be suitable for China, with it being important to contextualize any leadership study.


Recent attention to the organizational context of leadership development has tended to emphasize competitive advantage and the value of such investments (Deloitte, 2014), with specific reference being made to the performance of executive leaders (Li et al, 2013). Day (2000) argued that leader development aims at building human capital, while leadership development aims at building social capital. Leader development is one of the parts of leadership development and supported leadership development from each individuals.  For this research, leadership development is the priority to explore based on the views of individual leaders.

Current literature has shown two main agendas in the Chinese context. One is to compare and implement western leadership development theories into Chinese context; the other is to concentrate on the establishment of theoretic foundation to develop Chinese leadership and leadership development theory (Selvarajah and Meyer, 2008).

The existing literature presents a variety of leadership development approaches that are/have been applied in organizations to improve performance management and enhance productivity, such as 360-degree feedback, coaching, mentoring, action learning ( Day 2000 and Day et al, 2021) , experiential learning, specific job assignments, corporate case studies, skill-based training, and classroom-type leadership training (Bolden, 2016). Three main leadership development interventions will be explored in this research context, include experienced-based approach, formal training, and coach.

Purpose- In broad terms, the proposed research seeks to address how leadership development is perceived in a case-study organisation. Thus, the key research question that drives the proposed study is to explore the perception of leadership development and the effectiveness of leadership development.

Research Questions:

  1. How do domestic hotel managers perceive and understand leadership and leadership development?
  2. What are the current leadership development practices within the case study hotel?
  3. What are the implications of this analysis for leadership development practice within this context?

Design/method- The methodology framework for this research is informed by a social constructionist philosophy and a critical case study research design.

Result/Conclusions - In terms of the theoretical contribution for this research, it will develop key concepts of leadership/leadership development and fill the gap of leadership development theories in Chinese context natures shown that western leadership development not complete fit to Chinese context.

The difference of leader development and leadership development is focus on the characters of human capital and social capital. The first phase (document analysis) in this research has been completed. The document content of training program in case study hotel gave more attention to management skills rather the leadership development. For the first document analysis stage, there is no data to show the effectiveness of perceived leadership development and leaders’ perception of leadership development, the data from semi-structured interviews currently analysis by the method of temple analysis.