•  Share this page
  •  About us
  •  Subscribe
  •  Jobs
  •  Advertise
  •  Contact Us

Are you a hotel manager or a leader?

Many executives mistakenly believe that being a good manager makes one a fine leader or vice – versa. Others assume that holding a senior position within a hospitality business – be it as a general manager in a hotel or a senior manager for a tourism organisation, automatically makes them a great leader. Maybe they should all think again.


The title of this article is taken from a conversation that David Arraya (who was the Hotel Manager of the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin, Texas), had with a friend a few years ago, while working at another hotel brand, where he shared his thoughts on what differentiated a manager from a leader. It was a very insightful and fascinating discussion that provokes one to re-examine the relationship between managing people and leading them.


David starts off by saying that he realised that all the places he worked at, have many differences. However, in all of these places, the one thing that remains a constant is that he ‘works for people, with people and through people’. He goes on to explain that it is important to distinguish first and foremost, the differences between leadership and management.


“The big distinction, in my opinion, is that management is a role, a job. It’s something you choose to do. By being a manager, you automatically have a certain level of power and you can command things. Leadership is different. It’s something that, in my opinion, is a verb.Leadership is something you are every day. To some people, it comes more naturally than others. There are people that are impactful leaders as line-level employees or as individual contributors. But when they are at the management-level, they have a very difficult time”.


He then talks about how he spends a lot of time with young, outstanding employees who perform at a high level, to try to get them to understand that what made them successful as an employee is not necessarily going to make them as successful as a manager.


Stressing that young professionals need to understand that they can still be leaders, even if they’re a line-level employee, he goes on to say Leadership is about having an influence on people and inspiring others. Leadership is about being a beacon of light where there is darkness. Besides, with management, you can command, but you can’t build commitment. Leadership is where the commitment comes in”.


To be a good leader depends on a lot of factors. Asked if he could choose just one key characteristic and what that would be - he said that one word that came to his mind was ’humility’. Defining humility as “Not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less”, he further elaborated, “You still have to have confidence and an inspirational personality. When people come to you, you have to be decisive, you have to be empathetic”.


According to David, The true essence of a leader is somebody that makes the people around him or her better. Humility is the key to unlock many other things: empathy, the ability to include people and to make decisions with the people around you, instead of just one person making the decisions.


Other extracts from that discussion include him raising certain pertinent questions;“We’ve often mistaken leadership and management. I challenge every leader to ask themselves: Are you ready to be a manager?’ When you become a manager, it’s no longer about you. It’s about everybody else. Are you ready to give that up? And the same thing applies for every manager. I challenge every manager to think: ‘Am I really a leader? Am I really that beacon of light that people look up to?”


Leaders David referenced include Isadore Sharp, the founder of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, whom he terms visionary! And what David’s take from him most is that, Sharpe never sold himself out to the industry and that  he didn’t sacrifice his expectation of luxury and of quality to make more money or to make money faster like many other companies did.


Another person who hugely inspired him for many different reasons was Ian Schrager when he had the privilege of working in some great lifestyle properties. Schrager according to him is a true visionary - constantly pushing the boundaries and trying new things and shaking up the market.


Shafeek Wahab – Editor, Hospitality Sri Lanka, Consultant, Trainer, Ex-Hotelier



10 Best Places to visit in Sri Lanka - World Top 10