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Conrad Hilton : personal ethics and the pursuit of competitive advantage

O'Gorman, Kevin and MacLean, Mairi and Harvey, Charles and Maclaren, Andrew (2011) Conrad Hilton : personal ethics and the pursuit of competitive advantage. In: Management History Research Group, University of Edinburgh Conference, 2011-07-19 - 2011-07-20.

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This paper builds upon archival and oral history research on personal ethics and competitive advantage at Hilton Hotels Corporation between 1946 to 1967, when founder Conrad N. Hilton was in full personal control of the business as CEO and major shareholder. We offer a theoretically informed historical analysis drawing on Conrad Hilton’s speeches, autobiography, annual reports, personal and business correspondence, policy documents, and interviews with top executives. The paper divides into six sections. The objectives of the paper and brief details of the growth of the Hilton Hotels Corporation under Conrad Hilton’s leadership are provided in a brief introductory section. The literature on personal values of organizational leaders and their impact on their organizations is reviewed and assessed in section two. We identify limitations in the existing literature, specify our intended contribution and introduce an original typology of expressions of personal values. There follows a short section on sources and methods. The next two sections are empirical. In the first, we apply our theoretical model to reveal how Conrad Hilton gave expression to his personal values within and beyond the boundaries of Hilton Hotels Corporation. In the second, we demonstrate how these expressions of personal values were used deliberately in pursuit of competitive advantage. In the final section of the paper, we draw together the threads of our argument, offer a number of provisional conclusions, consider the limitations of our approach and point to avenues for future research.