Leadership Styles Used by Conrad Hilton
Conrad Nicholson Hilton was an American hotelier and founder of the Hilton Hotel chain (Alef 2009). Hilton was born on 25th December 1887 in the city of San Antonio, New Mexico Territory. His father, Augustus Halvorsen Hilton, was an immigrant from Norway and his mother, Mary Genevieve, was an American of German descent and a devout catholic. He had eight siblings; Eva Hilton, Felice Hilton, Carl Hilton, Rosemary Hilton, Helen Hilton, Julian Hilton, Baron Hilton, and August Hilton (San Angelo LIVE! Magazine 2007). Conrad Hilton attended Gross military which is currently known as New Mexico Military Institute and St. Michael`s College which is currently known as the College of Santa Fe (Turkel 2009). He also attended the New Mexico School of Mines which is currently known as New Mexico Tech. Hilton was a member of the international fraternity Tau Kappa Epsilon and a Republican representative in the first New Mexico legislature (Alef 2009). He also served in the U.S. Army for two years during World War I before starting a hotel business. Hilton married three times; the first wife being Mary Adelaide Barron in 1925 with whom they had three children (Turkel, 2009). He later divorced her wife in 1934 and married Zsa Zsa Gabor in 1942 with whom they had one child before divorcing again in 1946. Hilton later married Mary Frances Kelly and their marriage lasted until his death in 1979 at the age of 91 through a natural cause. Literature Review
Hilton developed his entrepreneurial skills at a young age where he was working at his father`s general store that was located in Socorro County of New Mexico (San Angelo LIVE! Magazine 2007). He took over the store at the age of 21. Hilton later joined politics where he served two terms in the New Mexico State Legislature. He also served in the U.S. Army during World War I and returned to San Antonio after the war. Hilton started his hotel business by purchasing a 40-room Mobley Hotel that was located in Cisco, Texas in 1919 after his plan to invest in the bank failed (Alef 2009). The hotel picked so well and he decided to expand his business through buying other hotels throughout Texas. Dallas Hilton was his first high rise hotel that was built in 1925. He later built the Abilene Hilton in 1928, Waco Hilton in 1928, and EL Paso Hilton in1930. The first hotel to be built outside Texas was Hotel Andaluz in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1939. Hilton lost several hotels during the Great Depression and nearly became bankrupt (San Angelo LIVE! Magazine 2007).
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He later bought them back and formed the Hilton Hotels Corporation in 1946 which was later followed by an international company known as Hilton International Company in 1948 (Andrews, 2007). Worldwide expansion of the Hilton Hotels in 1950s and 1960s facilitated American tourism and led to an increase in overseas business among the American corporations (Eeden et al. 2008; Lockyear, 2007). Hilton was the first international hotel chain in the world and was used to set hotel accommodation standards. The company expanded into several U.S. cities and foreign countries. Conrad Hilton later bought the Carte Blanche Credit Company and owned shares in the American Crystal Sugar Company as well as other companies within the United States (Alef 2009). Hilton was succeeded as president in 1966 by his son Barron where he was elected to be the chairman of the board. The Hilton hotel has grown to become the largest private company in the United State with more than 500 hotels across the world. Discussion
Conrad Hilton greatly used a transformational leadership style in his operations. This is a form of leadership that focuses on higher levels of the Maslow`s Hierarchy of Needs, such as, self-fulfillment, esteem, and self-actualization (Sarros and Santora 2001). Transformation leaders provide intellectual stimulation, individualized consideration and they are charismatic. Hilton was an intelligent leader who was always focused in attaining the desired results through motivation of his staff and provision of quality services to the customers. His key traits were determined, visionary, risk taker, tenacious, dedicated, high energy, caring, conscientious, motivated, persistent, and ambitious. Conrad Hilton recognized the importance of individuals in the realization of success. He took a personal interest in all of his followers by paying attention to their concerns and mentoring them (Alef 2009). He encouraged two-way communications between him and his followers to allow the people to express their views. He tolerated differences among the employees and delegated most of the work to others. This leadership style is important as it takes into consideration individual views of every person and makes the employees feel valued (Eeden et al. 2008). Globalization has led to the establishment of multinational companies that draw their employees from different backgrounds. There is need for leaders to understand their followers and tolerate their differences for the success of the entire team. Hilton also inspired his followers towards the attainment of common goals through a shared vision. He gave the employees a sense of belonging by motivating them to continuously focus on company goals. His wide experience in politics, military, and the entrepreneurial skills that he learned at his father`s store was a great inspiration to his subordinates.
The Hilton employees viewed Conrad as a role model due to the high moral standards that he exercised. Hilton encouraged his employees to have a positive attitude in life and perceive their jobs positively (Eeden et al. 2008). This enabled the employees to achieve more than they could have achieved on their own. Hilton encouraged creativity among his followers and accepted challenges. He allowed his followers to make their own independent decisions concerning important matters (Oppenheimer 2007). The chain of hotels allowed each property to have its own style that is not similar to the chain. Hotels affiliated to the company have the freedom to make independent decisions according to the environment they are operating. He allowed individual managers to evaluate the local market and develop the most suitable plan of action. This enabled the Hilton International to be the best hotel chain in the world. Individual properties were able to offer customized services according to customer demands. Hilton was successful in every financial venture that he made. He successfully managed to run his father`s store at a young age up to the time he joined politics. Despite having a plan to invest in the bank industry, successfully change to the hotel industry and established a business that became one of the world leading companies.
Hilton took a risk to start a new business which he had very little knowledge about. He was focused on what he wanted and was determined to attain success in all his ventures. As a result, Hilton has created a lasting impact on the entire hospitality industry that is admired by many (Sarros and Santora 2001). The company has set hotel accommodation standards used in hotels worldwide. Hilton was a risk taker. After expanding his businesses in the hotel industry, he decided to venture into other businesses which included car rentals, credit cards, and travel services (Sam 2009). This was a risky venture but he managed to succeed in all his investments making him one of the wealthiest men in the world. Hilton was always determined in pursuing his dreams. He also risked establishing overseas business before any other person thought of doing so. This made Hilton the first hotel chain to establish international business thus giving it a competitive advantage.
He had great vision of what he wanted and kept moving. He believed that success is connected with action hence successful people do not quit despite the mistakes they make. He had great tenacity, energy, and dedication. Despite many challenges that he faced in the hospitality industry, he did not give up at any particular moment. He was able to start a hotel business after his initial plan to invest in the bank had failed. Hilton managed to rapidly expand his hotel businesses in Texas and other parts of the United States becoming one of the leading chains of hotels in the country (Oppenheimer 2007). The Great Depression nearly made him bankrupt and he lost most of his hotels. This however did not discourage him from pursuing his interests in the hospitality industry. He remained dedicated to developing the Hilton Hotels and managed to buy back all the hotels he had lost during the depression.
Moreover, Butler & Russel (2010) add that Hilton himself authored a book which outlined his philosophy for success. According to Hilton, the ten ingredients for success in the art of living begin with finding one’s own particular talent. Being big is also an ingredient, which is composed of thinking big, acting big and dreaming big. Honesty and enthusiasm are also part of the list. Hilton advises that possessions should not possess and individual, and that one must not worry too much about problems but instead, find solutions to the said issues immediately. Clinging to the past is a detriment, according to Hilton. Another ingredient to success is looking up to the right role models and never looking down on anyone. Moreover, one must assume his full share of responsibility and input. Lastly, Hilton believed in the power of prayer (p. 57). Parker (2012) writes that before he died, Hilton wrote that:
“To accomplish big things, I am convinced you must first dream big dreams. True, it must be in line with progress, human and divine, or you are wasting your prayer. It has to be backed by work and faith, or it has no hands and feet. Maybe there’s even an element of luck mixed in, but I am sure now that, without this master plan, you have nothing” (p. 315).
The brand that Hilton created continued to burgeon as an industry leader. In an operational management point of view, the brand name itself fits the criteria of an effective and lucrative enterprise, namely easily recognizable trademarks and brand names; a motto that summarizes the services and the benefits of the service; can be translated into different languages, and lastly, distinctive and capable of legal action . Hilton embraced the strategy of buying out underperforming hotels to give them the “Hilton Treatment”. Aside from his purchase of the Statler Chain as mentioned earlier, he also methodically purchased prestigious US hotels such as the Waldorf-Astoria in New York and the Mayflower in Washington DC. This approach bolstered his industry by a great deal, since the hotels that he decided to take over were already household names in the United States .
Aside from the fact that the said hotels are already prestigious names, they are also based in premiere locations that are frequented by its most priced clients. After all, Hilton himself is attributed for identifying the three keys to success in the business – “location, location and location” (. Furthermore, aside from being a fearless risk-taker, one of the most innovative and unique edge that the Hilton Chain of Hotels had during its time was the fact that Hilton had the vision to develop his business by tapping into unexplored markets, “building hotels in such exotic places such as San Juan, Madrid, Havana, Berlin and Cairo, and getting them financed by local partners” As such, Hilton’s motto when it comes to international expansion became “World Peace Through International Trade and Travel” (De Franco & Lattin, 2007). Hilton’s greatest contribution to the international hospitality industry is his pioneering work in developing safe and comfortable hotels in many countries. He also made sure that the hotels that he put up embraced the culture of the locality, and that it they contribute to the beauty of any city. According to Baird (2004), Hilton’s high standards of cleanliness, comfort, and attention to detail as manifested by clean water, safe food, clean beds, working plumbing and air conditioning, good housekeeping standards, a safe environment and working communications equipment are all observed in all international branches. Word of mouth and repeat business enhanced the tourists’ perception of the overall quality of the hotel chain. Hilton’s desire to build an empire of hotels and other businesses was not only driven by the need to make money (Oppenheimer 2007).
He had the desire to foster peace and unity among different nations. He actively advocated for world peace and economic stability. Hilton actively promoted international trade and travel to support peace across the world. He also sponsored community projects to benefit members of the society and donated to various charitable organizations. Besides doing business, Hilton established the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation in 1944 to help needy people in the world (Zaccaro 2007). This is part of the corporate social responsibility by the company to improve the socio-economic status of the society. The foundation awards annual prizes to organizations working to end suffering in the world. Hilton foundation also supports different programs for the homeless, the blind and education initiatives. These projects have changed many people’s lives across the world and improved the company`s reputation. Many charitable organizations across the world have been awarded by the foundation as a way of motivating them to continue supporting the poor. This strategy is important for the company as it creates a good relationship between the community and the organization (Eeden et al. 2008). It also improves the company’s public image and gives it a competitive advantage over others. Hilton also established the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston (Sam 2009). This college provided high quality training to hotel professionals in the United States.
The college was established to ensure availability of competent hospitality employees in the future to cater for the growing industry. This was a visionary leadership that aimed at attaining sustainability of the hotel profession for the coming generations. The Hilton College was also used to upgrade the knowledge of the hotel’s employees to adapt to the changes in the industry. This was one of the long-term plans that enabled the company to deal with the technological advancements and changes in the hotel industry. Forecasting into the future and development of strategic plans is very important for the growth of any business (Eeden et al. 2008). Conrad Hilton has contributed to the development of the hotel industry in the world. Hilton International was the first international hotel chain in the world and the largest in the United States (Sam 2009). Hilton’s success motivated other hotel companies to venture into international businesses to expand their organization. The trend has been followed by many companies leading to several multinational hotel chains in the current hotel industry. This initiative has shaped the hospitality industry and most companies are establishing overseas businesses to compete with their rival organizations.
Hilton also believed in provision of high quality services to its customers. The chain of hotels was famous all over the world for providing the best services in the most suitable manner. Hilton was used to set the standards for hotel accommodation that are still used in the current hospitality industry (Alef 2009). The company is used as a case study for many hotels that are coming up in different parts of the world. Examples from Hilton hotels are used in many academic materials and the leadership styles used by Conrad Hilton are taught in several colleges and universities. Hilton continues to provide quality services up to now and it is said to be the best hotel in the world. Conclusion/Summary
Conrad Hilton was an American hotelier known for founding Hilton Hotel chain. He was born in San Antonio in New Mexico and grew up with eight siblings. His mother was a devout Catholic who motivated him when things were going wrong and encouraged him to always pray (Scott-Halsell et al. 2008). Hilton developed his entrepreneurial skills at an early age when he was working at his father’s store which he took over at the age of 21. He later joined politics where he served two terms in the New Mexico legislature. Hilton also served two years in the U.S Army during World War I before moving to Texas to pursue his interests (San Angelo LIVE! Magazine 2007). He bought his first hotel called Mobley Hotel in 1919 and later purchased other hotels in Texas.
The Hilton Hotel chain expanded to other parts of the United States and foreign countries making it the first international chain of hotels and the largest in America. Hilton was a transformative leader who focused on what he wants. He was dedicated and determined to succeed in all his financial ventures despite the challenges involved. Having failed in his plan to invest in the bank industry, Hilton managed to invest in the hospitality industry and rapidly expanded his businesses to most parts of the world. The Great Depression nearly made him bankrupt but he was able to repossess his hotels and buy more hotels worldwide. Hilton is a role model and giant in the hotel business. Conrad Hilton managed to build a hotel empire where he believed that every property should have its own style (Oppenheimer 2007). The Hilton International Company has become one of the world’s largest hotel businesses that have expanded its services to include car rentals, credit cards, and travel services.
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