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Being a manager does not automatically make one a good leader

First and foremost let’s distinguish the differences between leadership and management. In my opinion, management is a job with a position one decides to do. It’s about *doing things right. Leadership on the other hand, is about *doing the right things…it’s something that is naturally embedded in some people. Despite their differences, leadership and management are two distinctive and complementary systems of action. The real challenge is to combine strong leadership and strong management and use each to balance the other. *(Peter Drucker)


In my over 40 years of work in the hospitality industry, I’ve come across many managers – in hotels, restaurants travel companies, airlines and so on. While they all had authority, which they wielded in various degrees, the majority of them simply did not have the ability to inspire and lead their teams as a true leader would.


Many go in guns’ blazing, which instantly puts barriers between themselves and the team, and the hotels they ran were often reactive rather than proactive… where rules inhibited initiative and innovation. Despite the command-and-control management approach been on the decline for many years, the style of ordering staff, micromanaging and dishing out discipline for the slightest mis-step, remains prevalent.


By and large, these managers adopted a task-oriented, bureaucratic and authoritarian management style referred to as transactional. They were the ‘Telling’ leaders; giving permission from the top whilst issuing directives to subordinates. Most of their employees followed orders because they were required to do so and not necessarily because they are influenced or inspired by the leader.


After establishing processes, rules, and standards of operations (SOPs) which they expect their employees to adhere to, such managers “switch off”, spending most of their time in office, reading reports and spreadsheets. Believing that if they know the figures they know the entire operation they are the type of managers who hardly think it necessary to walk the floors.


At best, transactional leaders are effective executors. Unfortunately, as I mentioned, many transactional leaders are “switched off” in the way they manage. Not to be confused with “hands off”, which is when they do not interfere when operations run smoothly, and yet, keep close tab by making the rounds to make certain that things are going according to plans, and to help identify potential / emerging problems.


Hotels that achieved continual success were those that were led by general managers who were genuinely good leaders. They fine-tuned the ability to adopt both types of distinct management styles, namely; Transactional and Transformational - as and when circumstances dictated. Transformational leadership considered the more effective of the two, inspires trust, loyalty, and respect, leading to high levels of motivation, whereas, transactional leadership is useful to ensure tasks get completed.


These exceptional leaders realise that while there can be many different styles of leadership, the one thing that remains a constant is that the hotel industry is where people work for people, with people and through people. When you talk to such leaders they make you feel important, whereas, when talking to most managers, you get the feeling that they are important. That’s because the latter lack humility. As someone explained, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less”.


A manager who makes the people around him or her better is indeed a potential leader.


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



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