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13.10: Leadership vs Management

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    Leadership vs Management

    This section was written by Thomas Padron.

    A Symbiotic Relationship

    Leaders need managers and managers need leaders; it is what is called a symbiotic relationship (mutual dependency), when each does something needed by the other. You can think of this as leaders need managers to operate their businesses and managers need leaders to provide them with the necessary resources in order to effectively and efficiently operate the business. No one does it alone, and it is true, as the saying goes, “it takes a village.”

    Leadership and management are essential for successful organizations. Understanding the similarities and differences between the two are essential for career progression and growth. It is hard to define leadership as there are a number of definitions, so we will use Northouse (2004) as he states that “leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal”. Management can be defined as the efficient and effective oversight of the activities of employees ensuring thorough completion. 

    Hospitality businesses rely on educated, experienced, and qualified leaders and managers to successfully lead and manage their respective organizations. These concepts are utilized in all businesses that are foundational to profitable companies.

    Styles & Skills


    Leadership for some is a trait or ability, for others, it is a skill or behavior, and for still others, it is a relationship or process. In reality, leadership probably includes components of all of these dimensions as each dimension explains a facet of leadership (Northouse, 2012, p. 7).

    The two most common theories and practices are transformational and transactional leadership. Transformational leadership can be defined as involving staff members in collaborative goal-setting in which leadership is shared with others by delegating power (Woods and King, 2002). 

    Transformational leaders create a culture in their organizations that instills respect and trust from upper management down to the front-line workers. It seeks to enhance a follower’s morale, values, self-esteem, and worth, by creating an environment that is conducive to open exchanges, shared information, and mutual respect.  This type of leadership offers its followers a sense of accomplishment. Transformational leaders are aware that the greatest asset the business has is the employees and it is the leader’s goal to make certain that the culture of the business is one where employees are proud of their positions and the work that they do and are willing to go the extra mile.

    Transactional leaders bring out the desired action in others in an exchange for a reward. This reward can be and is typically related to money, so an exchange of services. Transactional leadership is based on a transaction, for example, you do this in this way and you will be rewarded. This type of leadership has been dominant for many years and is commonly used in many organizations. It is effective at producing desirable outcomes.

    Katz (1955) addressed leadership as a set of developable skills. He proposed that there are three basic administrative skills: technical (administrative), human (interpersonal), and conceptual.  Technical skill is knowledge about and proficiency in a specific type of work or activity; human skill is knowledge about and ability to work with people; and conceptual skill is the ability to work with ideas and concepts (Northouse, 2013). Kouzes and Posner (2007, 2011) explain that leadership skills can be learned, acquired, and practiced by anyone. Different people learn in different ways, but skills are developed through practice and through relating learning to one’s own personal experience and background (Katz, 1955). Padron (2011) suggests that leadership is very much a subjective phenomenon and that there really is no one right answer, but there are more effective ways of leading in given situations.


    Management involves a number of integral functions including planning, organizing, coordinating, staffing, directing, and controlling. Through the use of these functions, managers are able to fulfill their duties that provide structure and guidance for subordinates.

    Three management roles are integral to a manager’s position, including interpersonal, informational, and decisional roles. Management’s interpersonal role is to serve as a connection between all stakeholders and knowing the interrelatedness of people and systems within the organization. The Informational role is based on communication and ensuring that stakeholders have complete information regarding the organization and also sharing that information with all stakeholders. The decisional role includes making informed decisions based on the use of both of their interpersonal and informational roles.  

    There are also three skills that managers utilize: technical skills, human relations skills, and conceptual skills (note that these are the same skills as those of leadership). The skills that are required for each field differ in intensity as the management skills that are ideal or possibly prescribed or required by one field may not be exactly what is needed for the others.

    The following table encapsulates the differences between leadership and management.

    Leadership vs Management Adapted from Woods & King, 2010, p. 61
    Leadership Management
    Do the Right Things Do Things Right
    Monitor Guest Operations Direct Operations
    Communicate Vision & Values Enforce Policies & Rules
    Manage Systems & Processes Design Procedures & Tasks
    Support People Control Results
    Engage in Continuous Improvement Foster Stability

    Changing Times

    Leadership and management styles must evolve over time. While much of what each is based on remains foundational, the need and demand for change are driven by many internal and external forces. Internal forces include employees, organizational structure (the leadership makeup of the business), and physical structure (the buildings and facilities). External forces include customers/guests, governments, other businesses, for example. There is a push and pull, a give and take, with both internal and external forces. Both leadership and management need to be agile and be proactive to possible changes and shifts in their environments. Kotter (2001) stated that “most U.S. corporations today are over-managed and under led” (p. 85).  He contends that the challenge is to combine strong leadership and strong management and use each to balance the other.

    team working and laughing.jpg

    Photo by NappyStock on Nappy

    The Balance

    As a hospitality professional you will assume both leadership and management roles and positions. These will include using your skills and abilities in both areas. The understanding is that you will know, through education and experience, when to lead and when to manage. While the two seem interchangeable as noted earlier, they are distinct on their own. The “recipe to succeed” includes education and experience and adds awareness and goals. Each hospitality professional must be first self-aware, aware of who they are and their qualities and abilities, and secondly aware of their environment that includes people, their physical surroundings, and the business environment. Goals are essential as each hospitality professional is guided by their personal, professional, and business goals. The goals can be combined. For example, if your personal goal is to make more money and you are a front desk agent, you might decide that you want to be a General Manager of a hotel --  this is also a professional goal. This is also a business goal. In this position, you will need to balance both your leadership and management skills and abilities to successfully operate the property.

    J.W. Marriott and J.W. Marriott Jr., are a father and son duo who created Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel company through effective and efficient leadership and management. The success of their company is a testament to their concerted efforts to create an organization that values their employees first, teaching and training employees on the importance of leadership and management. In J.W. Marriott Jr’s book “The Spirit to Serve”, he outlines the core elements that are the root of the success story of the company. They include (1) get it right the first time; (2) money is a big thing, but it’s not the only thing; (3) a caring workplace is a bottom-line issue; (4) promote from within; and (5) build your brand for your associates. These elements revolve around the balance of leadership and management and they are also a guide by which the company still implements today.

    With any career, starting out at the bottom may seem like a daunting climb to the top. Many times, people want to skip steps in order to get to a position sooner when in fact taking the time in the lower-level positions and progressing forward will assist them in further succeeding when they reach their career goals. There are many foundational skills that are learned in lower positions that are applied regularly in advanced positions. Understand that you not only must have those skills, you must master them in order to move up.

    Career Paths

    Consider the path of a dishwasher. Many view this position as a ‘dead-end’ job with very few skills needed to complete the duties. That being said, now consider this, a dishwasher has an area to manage. This person has to manage his/her time along with machines and chemicals, knowing the amounts that are needed. A requirement is to be aware of the amounts of items that he/she is responsible for in order to report those to the manager or chef so that replacements or replenishments are ordered at an appropriate time. The dishwasher may also be responsible for managing or leading other dishwashers and sometimes scheduling them. This person is also responsible for knowing where everything goes, how much goes where, and when it goes to where it needs to go. So, on the contrary, a dishwasher’s job can and does provide training and many good skills and habits are fostered and carried with them as they advance. Ask any chef who is a leader and manager, and they will tell you that they started out as a dishwasher and will probably have many stories to tell of how that position shaped who they are as a leader and a manager throughout their journey to the top. The moral of the story: what you get out is what you put in. Put in your time. It will pay off in the end and you will be thankful that you did! 

    Succeeding in the hospitality industry derives from the education, learning, and experiences gained in front-line work with the progression to leadership positions, supervisory roles, management positions, directorships, etc. Understanding leadership and management, separately and together are essential to those seeking to “climb the ladder” in any industry.

    The workforce is constantly changing, and enhanced, refined leadership and management knowledge, skills, and abilities are essential for those who will be future hospitality professionals. 

    manager employee high five.jpg

    Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash


    Katz, R. L. (1955). Skills of an effective administrator. Harvard Business Review, 33 (1), 33-42.

    Kotter, J. P. (2001, December). What leaders really do.  Harvard Business Review, 85-96.

    Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2007). The leadership challenge. (4th ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2011). The truth about leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Marriott, J. W. Jr., & Brown, K. A. (1997). The spirit to serve: Marriott’s way. New York: Harper Business.

    Northouse, P. G. (2004).  Leadership: theory and practice (3rd ed.).  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

    Northouse, P. G. (2012).  Introduction to leadership: Concepts and practice (2nd ed.).  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

    Northouse, P. G. (2013).  Leadership: theory and practice (6th ed.).  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

    Padron, T. C. (2011). Transformational leadership of hotel general managers and guest satisfaction ratings: A correlational study. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Capella University, Minneapolis, MN.

    Woods, R. H., & King, J. Z. (2002).  Leadership and management in the hospitality industry.  (Second Ed.).  Lansing, MI:  The Educational Institute of the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

    Woods, R. H., & King, J. Z. (2010).  Leadership and management in the hospitality industry.  (Third Ed.).  Lansing, MI:  The Educational Institute of the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

    13.10: Leadership vs Management is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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