A 7 Cs model of effective service leadership

Tracy X.P. ZOU*, Robin S. SNELL, Maureen Y. L. CHAN, Amy L.Y. WONG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to identify attributes and practices that are salient for effectiveness in middle- and senior-level service leadership positions. Design/methodology/approach: Critical incident interviews were conducted with 17 key informants, who were service leaders in various service sectors in Hong Kong, and with ten stakeholders. Findings: Grounded theory analysis generated a 7 Cs model with seven categories of service leadership attributes and practices: character, choreography, care, creativity, charisma, collaborating and competence self-improvement, and 24 constituent concepts. There was concordance between pairs of key informants and stakeholders. Research limitations/implications: Further research could investigate the impact on frontline service leaders’ performance if one or more of the 7 Cs are perceived to be absent or deficient among leaders at more senior levels, and whether there are acceptable substitutes for particular Cs. Practical implications: The 7 Cs model identifies service leadership attributes and practices across diverse sectors. Originality/value: The 7 Cs model provides a map for orienting the developmental preparation of individuals, who are aspiring to become middle- and senior-level leaders in economies that have become highly dependent on service.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)745-761
Number of pages17
JournalLeadership and Organization Development Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 6 Aug 2018


  • Care
  • Character
  • Competences
  • Empowerment
  • Service leadership practices


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