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A Review of the Book Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy by Isadore Sharp

The Book Four Seasons: The Story of a Business philosopher is a chronological account that explains the rise and development of the Four Seasons Hotel. In his book, Isadore Sharp recalls and narrates his experiences as a youth in Toronto; how he learnt about real estate and construction business at his father’s company up to how he ventured into the hospitality industry and opened up his first hotel in 1961. This essay aims to provide an analysis of the book and explain the main lessons drawn from the same on the value of leadership in the hospitality profession.

The book is written in several chapters each of which explains the author’s determination, circumstances and vision guided him into establishing one of the most recognized hospitality brand around the world. In the first chapter, the author starts by narrating about his immigrant family. His mother and father had emigrated from Poland and were now living in Toronto, Canada. At this time, his father owned a construction business and as a small boy, Isadore would spend much of his time helping him dig ditches or carry bricks of plaster and any other building materials. In the book, Sharp (2009) clearly reveals that he drew his ales in business and dealing with people primarily from his upbringing (family values).

After completing his studies at the age of 21, Isadore went to work at his father’s company on a full-time basis. At this time, his father had expanded his span of operations in the construction business to not only building houses but also real estate apartments. It is in this work environment that Mr. Sharp learnt to patiently cultivate relationships by spotting like-minded individuals and establishing a partnership with them. He also narrates the history of his family in his book; his marriage life and children and how he lost one of his sons who was battling cancer. This in turn unfolds another story of some of the great cancer awareness programs and charity events that he supports up to date. 1n 1961, Isadore established a small hotel from scratch and named it Four Seasons. Under his management and leadership, the hotel has gained a reputation as one of the most prominent luxury brands with more than 80 resorts and hotels throughout Asia, Canada, the United States, Europe and Tropical Islands.

The operations of the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts are governed by Isadore’s golden rule philosophy of treating workers and stakeholders within the hospitality sector with respect and equitability. He says, “Do unto others what you would expect them to do unto you”, (Sharp, 2009). In this regard, Isadore believed that as a leader, he was obliged to make a strategic decision that would transform his company from just a small business to a luxury brand. As such, he decided to make the quality of the Four Seasons hotel services a distinguishing and competitive factor that would be acknowledged by customers. To achieve this, Mr. Sharp established the golden rule philosophy to ensure that everyone working in the hotel; employees and stakeholders were fully equipped to give customers a sincere level of service. Based on the golden rule, everyone in the hotel was treated with the respect and dignity that they desired, a team work spirit was enhanced and a conducive work environment that influenced everyone to perform at their best was created.

After reading this book, one of the greatest lessons I draw from the author’s narration is that leadership is valuable in the hospitality profession. Leadership is a term that is commonly misused and misunderstood by most people. In his book, Isadore emphasized that leadership should be earned through trust and respect from the subordinates in order for it to be effective. Sharp (2009) indicates that leadership is based on one’s ability to influence the actions of other based on a position of respect rather than that of power. Besides, when one earns respect and trust from their employees, they then have influence not because of their position as a leader but because their subordinates believe in them. This means that leadership is valuable in the hospitality profession because it promotes mutual respect and trust in the work environment thereby fostering a good work relationship between employees and their bosses.

Leadership is valuable in the hospitality profession because it facilitates the formulation of policies and standard rules of conduct aimed at a positive brand image through the provision of quality customer service (Liang et al., 2017). In order to establish a superior level of customer service, Isadore established the golden rule philosophy that involved applying the principle of fairness in the interactions involving all the concerned entities in the hotel (customers, employees, and stakeholders). In his book, Mr. Sharp revealed that this step in strategic decision-making proved not only effective in creating a conducive work environment and promoting a team spirit in providing the quality customer services but it also helped in employee retention. This teaches me that a leader in the hospitality profession should be in a position to make strategic decisions like formulating and implementing policies and standard rules of conduct that enhance positive relations among all the concerned parties; employees, stakeholders and customers. More so, this decision should be centered on the principle of fairness and equitability among all parties to ensure that each of them does their best to ensure that the company’s vision is achieved. Besides, leadership in the hospitality profession should be transformational in nature. It should foster teamwork, innovation, and a healthy work environment that will in return promote the overall firm’s brand image as a quality customer service provider.


Liang, T. L., Chang, H. F., Ko, M. H., & Lin, C. W. (2017). Transformational Leadership and Employee Voices in the Hospitality Industry. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management.

Sharp, I. (2009). Four Seasons: The story of a business philosophy. Porttfolio 1st Ed.


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