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  • Writer's pictureWolstonbury Hospitality Consultant

Leadership vs management in hospitality

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

Leader vs Manager

Leadership (we) vs management (us vs them) in hospitality: it’s something I have become extremely passionate about over the past few years in the industry. It’s something I believe is absolutely necessary for a hospitality business - not exclusive to restaurants - to be adopting and promoting within their organisations if they are to be profitable, successful, scalable and sustainable.

People are at the core of everything that’s undertaken within a business. Whether it’s serving customers, team management, hygiene and safety, ordering of stock, working on shift, cleaning, accounting, marketing, payroll, or so many other roles.

The Value of People

People are becoming increasingly aware of their value, in my opinion, and quite rightly so. People are, after all, human beings, and they deserve to be treated as such. People are not born to go to work, be made to feel inadequate, to be under extreme pressure from bosses to hit targets (which are measured with precise accuracy these days), to be uninspired, not to develop their skills and to go home and not be excited at the prospect of coming into work tomorrow, and generally feeling undervalued.

This seems an extremely obvious statement. Yet, I believe we would all be surprised to realise just how many people probably feel this way and are treated in this way - even if totally unintentional. More and more businesses are finding more ways to measure results and ‘productivity’, and they are so focused on output that they lose sight of what’s really important in an organisation… input.

Focus on Inputs

Input can refer to many things, but here I’m mainly referring to people. Input in development, input into working environment, input into career progression, input into growth of the business – since when businesses grow, people grow - input into rewards and recognition, input into staff health benefits, input into welcoming and on boarding new members of the team when they join, and so on.

It is an upfront investment of course, but one that is guaranteed to give a return later - accountants always want to see ROI whenever money is spent, but this is difficult here sometimes to measure. This means lots of these subjects get overlooked or underestimated, but people will focus on their own outputs.

Enter the Managers or Leaders

Everything is either made or broken by the leaders and managers of the business. Things can be achieved very easily just through common personal courtesy, building quality relationships with teams, genuinely caring, taking genuine interest in people, and engaging with them.

(All managers class themselves as leaders by the way)

Some managers would class themselves as leaders, but how can you tell the difference? Nobody wants to consider themselves in the category of ‘manager’ as opposed to ‘inspiring leader’. But often, unfortunately, the reality is different. It takes a real leader to really consider and look at their own behaviours, ask people for feedback (yes, even the cleaners, they’re humans of equal importance to everyone else too), reflect on their performance, critique themselves, study and benchmark against others and to really change and react to the outcomes of this analysis.

My opinion is, if I feel that my team are not in control of my business when my head hits my pillow at night, then my job as a leader is not quite done. If I can’t leave my business for a week on holiday without everything toppling, if I have to be asked for my opinion on every decision that is made within my different departments, then my leadership has not been quite impactful enough.

A team that has a true vision and purpose that has been shared with them, or, ideally, a team that has been involved in creating this vision, will work so well together that many of these buggy day-to-day issues just go away. People will be empowered to make their own decisions because they are being ‘lead’, they are not having to be ‘managed’.

Time for Change

It’s time to be an organisation that empowers, inspires, and leads their team - where people will recognise this and will be loyal to the business. Mistakes will be made, but they’re being made all the time anyway.

When people see their line manager as their leader (we), not their manager (us vs them), the difference is that support can be provided and people can be coached through the mistakes, minimising their impact and reducing their frequency. And, ultimately, everyone is happier and more fulfilled when they go home at night. It’s a win/win.

If you need a hand, feel free to get in touch.

Thanks for reading,


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