Leadership in a humane organization

Danielle Dimitrov (Carey Business School, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA)

European Journal of Training and Development

ISSN: 2046-9012

Publication date: 16 February 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the way leadership influences an organization to become humane through its features and behaviors; as well as the organizational circumstances in which humane leadership can be nurtured. The first empirical case study, in the fields of Human Resource Development (HRD) and hospitality management, to explore the way employees from different national cultures (as measured by their individualistic/collectivistic values), in a US-based hotel, perceive their workplace to be a humane organization (HO), as defined by Chalofsky (2008), was the one made by Dimitrov (2009, 2010). More specifically, the example set by leadership in the studied hospitality organization is the focus of the present descriptive manuscript. The importance of HRD concepts such as the HO for the academic study and practical development of leadership in organizations is significant, through the effects leadership has on employee satisfaction and engagement at the workplace.

Design/methodology/approach

The exploratory research mentioned above used a single embedded case study with 17 participants, selected via purposeful convenience sampling, who represented management, supervisory and professional line-level employees from a culturally diverse full-service hotel in a major metropolitan area. The instrument of Singelis et al. (1995) for horizontal and vertical individualism (I) and collectivism (C), as well as the instrument of Triandis and Singelis (1998) for I and C, was applied to every respondent to determine their cultural belonging. One-on-one interviews, written reflections and documentary analysis, as well as observations of the social and physical aspects of the participants’ workplace, were conducted.

Findings

Five leadership sub-themes were observed to the general theme “Setting the Example” of the study’s findings: company values for leadership styles and employee treatment; the legacy of one charismatic leader (the previous general manager); leader–follower communication; how the workplace feels intrinsically; and how the work environment becomes negative. The study led to the formation of two new characteristics of the HO (Dimitrov, 2009), of which one could be recommended as the main focus of leadership in an HO: being cognizant and understanding of individuals as human beings, not just as employees. The traits and behaviors of some modern leadership theories such as authentic leadership, transformational leadership and charismatic leadership were combined under the concept – humane leadership.

Research limitations/implications

The research of more culturally diverse organizations in different counties, brand cultures and economic sectors, under various research methodologies, and in the context of classical and recent leadership theories, was recommended to establish further weather I and C employees’ expectations of their leadership would make a difference for the sustenance of an HO.

Practical implications

Furthermore, organizations and HRD practitioners are encouraged to invest more time, efforts and resources into leadership development programs that create such humane leadership skills and prepare quality leaders who are well-perceived and trusted by their culturally diverse workforce.

Originality/value

The importance of HRD concepts such as the HO for the academic study and practical development of leadership in organizations is significant, through the effects leadership has on employee satisfaction and engagement at the workplace. Humane leaders can be nurtured in a humane organizational culture.

Keywords

Citation

Dimitrov, D. (2015), "Leadership in a humane organization", European Journal of Training and Development, Vol. 39 No. 2, pp. 122-142. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJTD-07-2014-0051

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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