International Hospitality Operations Need Global Leaders: Research Highlights

Globalization has had a significant impact on the hospitality industry and requires thoughtful consideration from leaders of hospitality organizations who wish to expand their domestic operations into the international marketplace.

In recent research, Dr. Paul Willie, DBA, MBA, CHAE+, CHTP, CMA and Isidro Fierro set out to identify the elements and requirements of a global leader in today’s hospitality industry. They leveraged existing secondary data to highlight why global leaders are imperative for international hospitality firms — as well as the actions an organization must take to secure and/or develop a global leader to effectively compete in today’s competitive international environment. Their research draws on the literature and perspectives of academics who have engaged in extensive travel around the role.

What are some of the valuable takeaways yielded by the research?

Dr. Willie and Fierro proposed that global leaders must be introduced to foreign lands, cultural diversity and international work practices as early as possible. Being “global ready” means that the incumbent has had experiences and exposure to external international practices as required throughout his or her career development. The best hospitality organizations provide international experience opportunities for their managers.

The largest hotel companies in today’s competitive environment have properties on almost every continent. Taking a look at the global marketplace, there are a number of significant hotel companies that have properties located all around the world (see Table 1).

Table 1. International Hotel Properties by Brand

Source: Statista (

Going global can also be a cautionary tale. The journey will be met with challenges in terms of logistics, human resources, time and money (Keller & Meany, 2017). A successful outcome will be dependent upon having a game plan and an accomplished global leader in place to champion the organization’s transition from domestic to international (Quackenbos, Ettenson, Roth, & Auh, 2016). These global leaders will be responsible for many tasks and must specifically align the local organization’s objectives with the overall global purpose(s). It is important to take notice that global leaders are no longer a luxury for businesses, but a necessity in order for organizations to survive in the global arena (Engesland, 2014).

Global leaders must understand how their colleagues are contributing to the organization in a supervisory or management role. Global leaders must constantly monitor the function, purpose and performance of subordinates to help ensure organizational expansion goals will be met with success.

To be clear, supervisors are responsible for the successful execution of objectives and a high level of organizational performance at the operational level, either as a whole unit or within sub-units (Cunningham & Hyman, 1995). Whereas, management is seen as having the responsibility of crafting strategy. Management can carry out this task by identifying relevant goals and objectives ensuring that said strategy is successfully executed via the resources that he or she has at his or her disposal (Wykowski, Kiryanoff, Mishra, & Bharat., 2017).

The overall function of leadership is to have the ability and skillsets to persuade people to embrace the guidance and direction provided by the organization. Effective leadership will successfully execute the required actions in order to move the entity towards its end goals (Popovici, 2012). Productive supervisors and effective managers will have demonstrated leadership performance ability on a consistent and continuous basis for and of the organization (Wykowski, Kiryanoff, Mishra, & Bharat., 2017).

A case in point is Bill Marriott Jr. who has managed, in a variety of capacities, the Marriott hotel brand for over 50 years, through good times and bad. He has a deep understanding of the role and need for leadership, supervision and management. As a result of his strong vision and leadership, Marriott continues to be a significant and relevant player within the international hotel industry (Eisen, 2017). 

Effective leaders must also be able to execute strategy at any given level and adapt quickly to cultural dilemmas as they unfold (Crossan, Dusya, & Len, 2008). In reflection, several academic research projects have been undertaken in order to understand what characteristics an effective leader must have in order to be effective (Morgeson, DeRue, & Karam, 2010).

To this end, global leaders need to be nimble and have a strategic mindset that gives them the confidence and the ability to change course when and if required (Anacona, Blackman, & Isaacs, 2019).

As identified in a variety of publications there are imperative skillsets required of an effective leader. In Forbes (Council, 2017) a comprehensive list highlights 16 desirable skills that leaders should demonstrate and perform. The top five include:

  • fearless agility
  • earnings respect
  • empathy
  • selflessness
  • flexibility (Council, 2017).

To this end, one can state that a domestic leader should have the same qualifications as to what would be required of a global leader. However, global leaders must also have an elaborate international lens known as a “global mindset.” A global mindset is defined as “a set of attributes that will help a manager to influence individuals, groups, and organizations from diverse cultural, political and institutional backgrounds” (Javidan, 2012).  With a global mindset, international leaders will be able to facilitate the achievement of their organizational performance objectives because they will be well prepared when dealing with different and diverse stakeholders (Scandelius & Cohan, 2016).

Check back on HFTP Connect for Part 2 of this blog series on global leadership. The second blog post will feature several examples of global hospitality leaders, as well as steps to take for the successful transition and execution of a global strategy.

Please email if you would like to receive a copy of the full academic paper.

Dr. Paul Willie, DBA, MBA, CHAE+, CHTP, CMA and Isidro Fierro are researchers at the Universidad Espíritu Santo, Somborondon, Guayas, Ecuador. Dr. Willie is also HFTP Education Advisory Council member, CHTP Advisory Council chair and Past Ontario Chapter president, as well as a professor at Niagara College Canada.


Anacona, D., Blackman, E., & Isaacs, K. (2019, July). Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from Nimble Leadership:

Cappellia, P., & Tavis, A. (2016, October). The Performance Management Revolution. Harvard Business Review, 58-67. Retrieved from Harvard Business Review:

Council, F. C. (2017, December 17). 16 Essential Leadership Skills For The Workplace Of Tomorrow. Retrieved from Forbes:

Crossan, M., Dusya, V., & Len, N. (2008). Transcendent leadership: Strategic leadership in dynamic environments. The Leadership Quarterly, 19(5), 569-581.

Cunningham, I., & Hyman, J. (1995). Transforming the HRM vision into reality. Employee Relations, 17(8), 5-20.

Eisen, D. (2017, June 2). Bill Marriott on his past, the future of hospitality and the wisest choice he ever made. Retrieved from Hotel Management:

Engesland, Astrid Nygaard (2014). “Global Mindset – a Requirement for Global Organizations and Global Leaders.” Aalborg University.

Javidan, Mansour and Walker, Jennie. (2012). “A Whole New Global Mindset for Leadership.” People & Strategy, Vol.
35, No. 2, pp.36-41.

Keller, S., & Meany, M. (2017, November). Attracting and retaining the right talent. Retrieved from McKensy and Company:

Morgeson, F., DeRue, S., & Karam, E. (2010, January 1). Leadership in Teams: A Functional Approach to Understanding Leadership Structures and Processes. Journal of Management, 36(1), 5-39. Retrieved from

Popovici, Virgil. (2012). “Similarities and Differences between Management and Leadership.” Analele Universităţii Constantin Brâncuşi din Târgu Jiu : Seria Economie. 2.

Quackenbos, D., Ettenson, R., Roth, M., & Auh, S. (2016, April 11). Does Your Company Have What It Takes to Go Global? Retrieved from Harvard Business Review:

Scandelius, C., & Cohan, G. (2016, September). Achieving collaboration with diverse stakeholders—The role of strategic ambiguity in CSR communication. Journal of Business Research, 69(9), Pages 3487-3499. Retrieved from

Wykowski, T., Kiryanoff, J., Mishra, J., & Bharat., M. (2017, March). What Great Managers Do. Advances In Management, 10(3), 1-7. Retrieved from

You May Also Like

About the Author: Contributor