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The mythological power of hospitality leaders? A hermeneutical investigation of their reliance on storytelling

O'Gorman, Kevin D. and Gillespie, Cailein H. (2010) The mythological power of hospitality leaders? A hermeneutical investigation of their reliance on storytelling. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 22 (5). pp. 659-680. ISSN 0959-6119

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Abstract

Aims to explore how senior leaders in the hospitality industry use storytelling to disseminate their vision to employees. To illustrate how hermeneutics can be used as a method for the interpretation of qualitative data in hospitality management research. A purposeful criterion based sample design was constructed and after a period of sensitisation to their organisations, twenty phenomenological interviews with high level international hospitality industry leaders were conducted. These interviews are analysed using a hermeneutical framework. Storytelling is being used as a strategic method of communication and is fundamental to leadership in the contemporary commercial hospitality industry; stories are used to strengthen and revitalise current norms and values. Stories penetrate organisations and tap into the emotions of employees in order to inspire action and understanding. Hermeneutics is applied clearly and concisely and the paper demonstrates how hermeneutics could easily be adapted for other projects. Clear direction for further research is suggested, exploring the efficaciousness of stories from the listeners' rather than narrator's perspective. This paper does not teach managers how to tell stories, or even make them better storytellers; however, it highlights how storytelling is used by leaders at the apex of the commercial hospitality industry to develop and enhance organisational culture. Within hospitality management research, storytelling has mostly been ignored both as a management tool and as a form of data collection; similarly hermeneutics as a means of data analysis does not feature in the hospitality management literature.