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The impact of CEO servant leadership on firm performance in the hospitality industry

Jun Huang (Department of Marketing, School of Economics and Management Southwestern University, Chongqing, China)
Weiwen Li (Department of Management, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China)
Canhua Qiu (School of Economics and Management, Department of Management Science, Tongji University, Shanghai, China)
Frederick Hong-kit Yim (Department of Marketing, Hong Kong Baptist University, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong)
Junbao Wan (School of International Business Administration, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, Shanghai, China)

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Article publication date: 9 May 2016




The purpose of this paper is to draw on the theory of servant leadership to examine the influence of chief executive officer (CEO) servant leadership on firm performance in the hospitality industry. It examined the mediating role of the service climate and the moderating role of competitive intensity in the relationship between CEO servant leadership and firm performance.


Multiple regression was used to analyze multi-wave, multi-source data from 92 hotels in China. A moderated path analysis was used to test the moderating effects.


CEO servant leadership positively influenced firm performance via the service climate in the hospitality industry. Competitive intensity strengthened the direct effect of the service climate on firm performance, and the indirect effect of CEO servant leadership on firm performance via service climate.

Research limitations/implications

The findings offer managerial insights into CEO succession, service management and human resource management.


This is one of the first studies to investigate how and when CEO servant leadership might shape firm outcomes in the hospitality industry. Theoretically, the findings enrich our understanding of how CEO leadership might shape firm-level outcomes.



This work is supported by several grants: Research on Evaluation and Internal Advancing Mechanism of Food Enterprises’ Corporate Social Responsibilities (12XGL007), Research on the New Urbanization Development Strategy in Promoting Sustainable Domestic Demand (23620140023), Research on the Route Design and Strategy Choice of New Urbanization Inclusive Development in China (12&ZD100), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 71202095), the Guangdong Natural Science Foundation (No. S2012040007820), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (No. 13wkpy13) and the National Social Science Program (13BGL072).


Huang, J., Li, W., Qiu, C., Yim, F.H.-k. and Wan, J. (2016), "The impact of CEO servant leadership on firm performance in the hospitality industry", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 28 No. 5, pp. 945-968.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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