Academic journal article International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health

Development of the Attitude to Service Leadership Scale in Hong Kong

Academic journal article International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health

Development of the Attitude to Service Leadership Scale in Hong Kong

Article excerpt


The 21st century has undergone paradigm shifts in the concepts, framework and application of leadership (1). Hence, the traditional economic theory, which is based on the industrial paradigm, might not be applicable to the service world (2). With the rapid evolution in information and communication technology, personalized services have become increaseingly important. In fact, service has become the major economic sector in most developed nations. For example, service industry accounts for almost 80% of the economy in the United Kingdom and the United States (3). In 2013, about 93% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Hong Kong was comprised of a wide range of services, such as hotel and food services, banking and insurance, and professional and business services (4).

According to Shek, Chung and Leung (5), there are differences between manufacturing economy and service economy in terms of leadership qualities. For example, while leadership in manufacturing economy is more top-down, it is more bottom-up in service economy. Besides, service leaders need to be more sensitive to different needs and expectations of the customers (6). Moving from a manufacture-oriented economy to a service-oriented economy means that the leaders need to be more responsive to customers' needs in the knowledge-intensive market (7).

The nature of service leadership

With the rise of the service economy, customers have become part of the organizational system (8). The increased diversity of customer backgrounds has imposed variability in the service provider-customer (supplier-customer) relationship (9) and led to a greater level of organizational uncertainty (7). Hence, identifying and satisfying the needs of customers have become an integral cost of the firm (10). In particular, emphasis on consumer experiences of services has become a key differentiator in this highly competitive world (11). Leaders have to manage their organization effectively in order to stay ahead in the highly competitive market. Researchers proposed the use of "customer-centered" service-related competence models, which focus on the leadership behaviors and skills of service leadership to promote the quality of service.

Based on his experience in the service industries, Chung (12) proposed the Service Leadership Theory which posited that it is important to identify effective leadership competencies in the face of the competitive business environment. Under the framework of the Hong Kong Institute of Service Leadership and Management (SLAM), service leaders aim at "providing quality personal service to everyone one comes into contact with, including one's self, others, groups, communities, systems, and environments" (12, p. 5). Compared with the conventional leadership theories (e.g., authentic leadership, transformation leadership), service leadership focuses on changing the followers' beliefs and perceptions about themselves and promoting followers' positive behavior (13-15).

There are several unique characteristics of Service Leadership. First, meeting others' needs is a unique feature of Service Leadership. The major premise of the Service Leadership Theory is that leaders promote positive organizational outcomes by satisfying the followers' needs and facilitating their development. Through this empowering process, followers feel more attracted to their service leaders, see them as role models and thereby recognize their optimal level of performance. This is different from the leader-oriented and hierarchical nature of the previous leadership theories (5). The de-emphasis of the hierarchical nature of leadership allows employees to act proactively and initiate changes from the bottom-up in order to address the needs at work (16). Through this changing authority process, employees perceive themselves as part of the organization and feel that they have autonomy to exercise their personal judgment with greater job responsibilities, resulting in increasing job satisfaction and organizational commitment (17, 18). …

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