Research Article
Damien Marchenay*, Tanguy Gras,
Corresponding Author: Damien Marchenay, Doctor of Hospitality and Tourism Management, The Polytechnic Hong Kong, #608 Pullman Changshu N9 Wangjiang Road, Changshu 215512 Jiangsu, China
Received: August 19, 2020; Revised: September 16, 2020; Accepted: September 14, 2020 Available Online: February 18, 2021
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Attracting the young generation is important as the industry witness a shortage of skilled manager and staff (Rahim, 2011). As the hospitality industry in developed country carries a negative image such as low salary, long hours, stress generation, (Lee & Chao, 2012) & Cho (2008), the potential good leaders tends to shift industry early in their careers. In order to resolve this frustrating situation, the study aim to give some solutions via the witness of two successful executives leaders, one being a corporate global from a top 5 company in the world and one executive manager in a worldwide famous flagship hotel. Those leaders climbed the ranks in years from waiters to their current positions so they can understand the recipes of success and failures to create a great leader in hospitality.

Keywords: Tourism, Hospitality, Millennials, Management, Motivation.

The hotel and tourism industry is one of the largest employers worldwide with having 10% of the global workforce and generates approximatively $4 trillion as revenue. (Kim, McCleary & Kaufman, 2013). Developing, inspiring and attracting the young generation is important as the industry witness a shortage of skilled manager and staff (Rahim, 2011). As the hospitality industry in developed country carries a negative image such as low salary, long hours, stress generation, (Lee & Chao 2012; Cho, 2008), the potential good leaders tends to shift industry early in their careers and the top executive management are taken to other horizons such as banking, real estate, finance, etc. Instead of blaming the industry itself, the leadership attributes of the managers should have been looked at. As per Alexakis, (2011), employees quit their bosses not their companies. Attracting and retaining performing worker lead to global guest satisfaction, therefore to sustain a level of excellence, training and loyalty is primordial of preserving the quality standard but also to facilitate the transfer of knowledge between generations (Dawson, Abbott, Shoemaker, 2011). Lolli (2013) mentioned that the curriculums from most of hotel school are very poor in leadership learning and graduate are not ready. The need to develop team leadership is primordial as nowadays competition has a certain paradox: “today’s world of increased external competition requires more internal cooperation” (Matjka, Dunsin & Walat, 1998). A wake up call should be happening to ensure the sustainability of tourism industry. As per Alexakis (2011) leadership is not a science, it is an art, based on philosophy. Therefore managers are strongly attracted by non-certified and nonacademic recognized gurus, such as Covey with his “7 habits” or Sinek for “start with Why”.

The main aim of this article will be to demystify the secret of current leadership based on two concrete examples from the industry and on the literature. Some clear guidelines on the skills, attributes and behavior will be to given to become a successful leader.


There are three typical methods recognized academically to treat research topics, quantitative, qualitative, and mixed, with each having a distinctive style, purpose, and results that justifies their use (Ritchie et al., 2005). The main difference as described by Phillmore et al. (2004) is the results expected the number of respondent and the quantified or not from the findings.

The qualitative method is the best way to analyse a context, as described by Myers (2009). This could include having in-depth conversations with managers or executives about their mindsets on subjects such as leadership. In this case, the executives can open up and be fruitful with their first-hand information. The qualitative method is most often utilized to gather data from executives, managers, through in-depth interviews, focus groups, or semi-structured interviews. This method is screened to allow collection of a large amount of information from a small number of people, and it facilitates having in-depth information (Veal, 2006). This mode is largely used by academics and as per Rubin and Rubin (1995), due to the exploratory nature of this part of research, a qualitative approach is best to reflect data that is as close as possible to reality (Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill, 2009). Qualitative interviews are the best way to capture the feelings of the respondent on a given topic. To ensure having complete and detailed information, Clifford (2006) advises performing in-depth data collection through a semi-structured interview.


            The sources of the research will be based on premium journals, books and articles. The author selected over 20 articles or journal on the topic of leadership attributes as a leverage of managerial performance. To ensure that the research is mostly serving the hospitality and tourism industry, most of the articles selected are treating leadership in the hospitality field. The choice was not to be oriented on philosophical statement described by leadership “gurus” but rather on analytic findings from existing academic researches as the approach preferred is academic.

The academic literature vs leadership gurus books

From Kerwin (2013) point of view, the success of all the leadership gurus’ book is mostly due the opacity and the lack of universal method published from the academy to become a leader. No academic research is able to give some clear solution whereas gurus can give for 9$ their secret recipes. That is why the subject is poorly taught in school and the academic does not prepare well the young generation to hold a leadership role (Lolli 2013; Yiu & Law, 2012; Rahim, 2011).

The definition of leadership

The definition of leadership is broad and diverse. Korabik (2010) mentioned that “Leadership is not universal” and varies from one person to another and from one gender or culture to another. It can be considered as a “concept” or an “art based on a philosophy” (Dawson, Abbott & Shoemaker, 2011). Despite the fact that there is no clear definition, it is recognized to be the most prominent factor to rate the successful entrepreneurs (Wagener, Gorgievski & Rijsdijk, 2010).

Avolio and Bass (2002), give a simple definition: To be a leader is to base a vision for a common group of individuals. Souba (2004), mentioned leadership is a group effect where you do have a leader and also followers. (Lewin, Lippit & White, 1939) defined 3 dimensions of leadership; authoritarian, democratic and laissez faire.

Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee (2002) complete it with taking 6 factors to define different type of leadership.
  • Visionary
  • Coaching
  • Affiliated,
  • Democratic
  • Commanding
  • Pacesetting
Leader vs. Manager

Despite the fact that the two terms are often misleading to be an identical meaning (Armstrong, 2009) the terminology of the leader and manager has no ambiguity and has clear differences. While a leader is often a manager; manager is not always a recognized leader. As per Dawson, Abbott and Shoemaker (2011) a manager get others to do what he/she wants subordinate to do whereas a leader gets other want what he/she wants.

A clear parallel is defined by White, Sara and Fashp (2005), a manager is a status, and a leader is an inspiration. To understand more the meaning of the definition, the author simplifies it in the Table 1.

How do we become a leader?

            From the literature the criterion of a leader is based on behaviors (Testa, 2007; Coughlan, 2001) funded on different values such as Ownership/Accountability (Froschheiser & Lee 2009; Dawson, Abbott & Shoemaker, 2011).

               The charisma and the EI (Emotional Quotient) are equally an important factor (Alexakis 2011; Halsell; Shumate & Blum, 2008).

Communication and language is a major channel to transpose all values linked to leadership (Lolli, 2013). As mentioned Sujansky (…), “the primary tool of a leadership were words”. And the weight of every single one has a major importance on the comprehension of the followers,

-Inclusion (team; partner);
-Empowerment (“you can do it”)
-Words of success (“victory”; “achievement” etc.)
Coughlan (2001) put in exergue that ethic in the hospitality industry is an important value to leadership and is an important leverage of staff satisfaction and loyalty to a leader. The employee has a need to be driven in a company culture driven by leadership. Based on organization, Kaptein and Wempe (1998), Coughlan (2001) selected 4 majors’ dimensions to focus and create leadership in an organization:
  • Justice (Impartiality and good faith)
  • Competence (Employee are capable, reliable and qualified)
  • Utility (Efficacity amongst the group)
  • Integrity (Honesty, sincerity)
            In a multicultural environment such as the hospitality industry, it is also important to consider the integration into culture and genders (Testa, 2007; Korabik, 2010). Cultural distance can lead to a failure or success in the leadership (Korabik, 2010; Hofstede, 2010).


            From all the existing leadership style, for a fast moving, highly competitive and creative environment such as the hospitality Industry, Halsell, Shumate and Blum (2008) and Humphrey (2012), define 2 new leadership styles: the “transformational leadership” (Alexakis, 2012; Dawson, Abbott & Shoemaker; 2011) use the word transcendental leadership.

            To simplify the definition, transformational Leadership and transcendental leadership has a common view of improving the hospitality best practices / results and to align the values of the followers with the organizations’. To achieve such target, fulfillment of the personal subordinates’ needs of recognitions, esteem, self-fulfillment and self-actualization should be the leader values. The past is an indicator of the future direction and not a trap to live in the past success, innovation should be the future (Jackson, 2010; Halsell, Shumate & Blum, 2008).

            Matjeka, Dunsing and Walat (1998), Halsell, Shumate and Blum (2008) and Alexakis (2011) declare that the mindset and the behavior of the good leader should be:
  • Consistency in the decision making, showing organization and being proactive.
  • Strong focus on the future with having an end in mind.
  • Be charismatic and Inspirational with create a synergy based on company culture based on value.
  • Connecting emotionally with the team; (being creative and empowering the team ,thinking “Win Win”; seek first to understand and then to be understood).
  • Believe that “leaders are not above followers and are not better”.
  • Passionate and socially committed to the organization with constantly coaching the new generation.
Based on the previous literature research, the key attributes to become a good leader are:
Inner attribute, general behavior and communication skills.
To simplify the comprehension refer to Table 2.

In order to give a clear example, two leaders were selected from the industry and accepted to deliver meaningful interviews.
During conversations, both of them found crucial to share their examples and thoughts, but mentioned that their own examples should not be taken as a best practice but more as a witness of how being successful today. Those two represent well leadership in a global organization, one property based and another top corporate executive.
The author selected them for what they represent today in term of title and inspiration for other. Two in depth interviews were performed for around an hour each with email exchanged to follow up and finalizing the best understanding. The questions and answers are all located to Appendix 1 (Table 3).
            The first leader (leader 1) is a Hong Kong national, previously EAM (Executive Assistant Manager) for the famous InterContinental Hong Kong. His career growth is exclusively on the same geographical location as he grew up within the years from being a waiter to EAM in Hong Kong. Being Asian, some specificity could be felt in his management style. He is recognized being a great leader and achiever in term of quality performance and awards. He has trained under his previous leadership an impressive number of successful manager in Hong Kong (Executive Manager from Robuchon, Best Sommelier in Hong Kong for 2011; 2013; 2014; Tim Ho Wan the first Dim Sum Michelin Starred owner and founder, etc.).
            In term of profile, the second leader (leader 2), was a Vice President of Food and Beverage for Luxury and Upscale brand for a global hotel companies, that oversees over 4000 hotels. He has been the mentor of hundreds of General Managers.
            French national, Leader 2, as of Leader 1, started from scratch as a cook and climbed all social ladders to reach his current level. He worked in several companies such as Four Seasons, Starwood, Hyatt, Raffles. 
            Both of them represents a cumulative of over 55 years of experience in both management and non-management.
Comparison of two key mentors from the industry
            The result of both interviews is a great source of leadership hints with always questioning the future. Some answers are quite personal and straight forward, which the author tried to keep as close as their statements. All questions and answers can be found in Appendix 1 (Table 3).
            The conversations were driven by some open questions that was built in the same time than the literature research. The author oriented the questions to reach the very personal feeling and thinking of the two leaders. The main target is to define the leadership of today for the training the leaders of tomorrow.
            Most of the questions were full of meanings with requesting a true transparency.
All questions were created to analyze the dimensions below:
  • Auto assessment on Leadership
  • Superior leadership assessment
  • Evaluating the importance of leadership and assess the future leaders
All questions were put in Table 4 and sorted to facilitate the understanding of the process from the reader.

Leadership auto-assessment
            Both leaders believe strongly in leadership as a key of success to any organization. When the questions were asked to assess their own leadership, both of the leaders see themselves to be authoritarian, however they prefer to be managed lightly (Laissez Faire) and fairly (Democratic). On their own point of view, to use a leadership which is different on their preferences of their own treatment is not a paradox but a way to facilitate coaching and the staff progression. Furthermore a paternalist touch is important with encouraging staff to take risk and let them doing mistake.
            Within decision taking, Leader 1 would rather to be free in his decision while Leader 2 believes in brainstorm and like to share his challenges with his subordinates.
            In term of leadership evolution, interestingly, both of them had to completely adapt over the years in pair with their own job maturity. They broadened their vision and escape from the micro management. This is the transition between a manager and a leader.
            For models of leaders as inspiration and admiration, both of them do not transpose themselves from hospitality industry leaders. One selected the genius designer from Apple, while the other one has no preference but appreciate the success of visionary global entrepreneurs.
            At the question on celebrating their own success, they remain quite conservative and none mentioned the company financial performance as success for leadership. Leader 1 cannot recall any success while leader 2 relates his best success to his own staff development from 10 years up to today.
Direct superior leadership assessment
            Both leaders remain quite humble on their own leadership skills. When it comes to be led by people, having a good superior/leader is important, especially early in the career. To have a mentoring/coaching system or a way to be inspired by people has a limitation and should stop with the maturity. As mentioned Leader 1: “After the age of 30, people should have their own belief”. Leader 2 put in exergue the fact that a junior leader should always listen to mentors as from his personal experience, realized those tips only after.
            Regarding the frustrations met during their past employees experience, Leader 1 feels that superiors tend to be too conservative and reduce risk to preserve their job while Leader 2 refutes the competencies of some of his previous leaders which did not have enough self-assessments of their qualities.
            Regarding the parallel of Leader vs Manager; the need of both are interconnected. However Leader 2 emphasizes on the fact that Leader is a recognition which is hard to obtain, while Manager is only a “role” and a “title”.
Evaluating the importance of leadership, assess and prepare the future leaders
            What was reflected from the interviews is quite simple and has a lot of common sense. As mentioned, leadership is the value which transports any team or individual staff to success. Adding to this, Leader 2 relates his own experience, when he observed manager failure for highly talented and technically skilled people. On the attribute for a great manager between talent and leadership, Leader 1, more operation based, prone the talent against the leadership (Talent: 80% vs. Leadership 20%); whereas Leader 2, having a corporate role requires more leadership amongst his employees (Talent 30%; Leadership 70%).
            Regarding the management of the future, the advice given from those two executives is to treat the new generation as such, by letting them their own way and wait that they create their own management style as the future is theirs. Leader 1 suggests letting the way to new generation and stop interfering in the near future. Often the generational conflict is not healthy and is not new. His past metrs were complaining about his own generation as much as now he is complaining about the newest managers. Such conflict the senior from the future management composition.
            To gain strategic advices, social media can be a tool but tends to become polluted by biased information. Besides it is not necessarily with reading advices on leadership that staff will become a leader. Leader 2 was promoting the fact that constant communication is important with giving the right appreciation of the employee.
            On a short term, to manage this generation, you need to “prove on daily-basis that you want them in the team”. Regarding the leadership profile of the manager of the future, it does not exist yet and cannot be predicted. Leader 2 mentioned that the future main strength of the perfect leader will be the one who manage to reduce the staff turnover in an industry.
            After analyzing the two profiles, a lot of similitudes were found. To be a good leader is foremost to take care with sincerity of the new generation. The care should be even stronger as the generation has a feeling to be rejected.
            The main focus to this research is to give some tools for inspiring manager to become a leader. After all analysis, it is still not an easy task. With a clear focus on achievement and a dedication to the team to make them progress, the manager can become in the future a leader.
            The two leaders described, prone the independence on the thinking, with a limitation in the coaching. The approach of a leader has to be close to the staff and organization culture and should be constantly adapted. In term of decision making, the mindset and the orders should be clear as all followers feeling is on the value. The personal value has to be pure. To adopt the authoritarian philosophy can be a good way to train and develop the future leaders but has limitations. To become a leader, inspiration remains important but independent thinking is the key.  Both the leaders and the followers have to develop themselves.
Adding to that, the EI (Emotional Intelligence) is an important tool to progress.
At last communication is the best way to transport the leader vision and should be taken in consideration.
There is no space for “Micro Management” in the future of the leadership in hospitality industry and therefore the best way to retains younger generation and to participate of the future of the hospitality industry is to use the “Laisse Faire” as the main leadership strategy and values.

            To conclude, the current research gives some hints and dimensions to look after in order to become a future leader. Concerning the future generation, some new leadership strategy will be raising within few years. The current executive or leaders should not interfere to that and follow the changes. It is an important topic as a lot of miscommunication make creates some gaps of generations.
In term of limitation or further study, it would have been important to have also the witness from the staff that has been managed on their frustrations of leadership.
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