Leadership in hospitality and tourism during times of change

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Chang is one certainty in today's business world, especially in hospitality & tourism (H&T) industry. Mergers, acquisitions, downsizing, and corporate restructurings are consistently changing the business landscape and these situations are stimulating the H&T organizations to respond to the change. So the H&T organizations which want to compete more effectively should rest the rules of business engagement toward the change, altering the old mindset of change that has long existed among the staff and transforming the very nature and notion of work itself.

Define a topic from change management:

Many hotels and resorts went down in the early stage after merging, downsizing and corporate restructuring (Ackoff 2004).

Such incidents always happen in today' H&T industry, and the leader always doubt why their business could be going down, because they always think that if they had managed to have a successful merging, downsizing or restructuring, there would be no doubt that their business will be going better, they tend to look at things just on the surface.

Many leaders could think of tons of ideas about how to compete effectively against their competitors, their ideas are very fantastic, but when it comes to the implementation part, everything turned out to be going against what they had expected (Beckhard 2007).

This kind of leaders always ignored how to make staff pay attention to their orders fully, and how to make staff get used to the new ideas just in a short period. Such things happen so often, and the leaders always feel troubled by these things in H&T industry, and they can not come up with effective solutions. Because most of them tend to neglect the existence of change when they announce a new goal, the announcement of the new goal is the only start of the change. It will never help the leader achieve the goal if they do not take actions on how to deal with the change.

In the midst of so much change, what can a hotel or a resort do to compete effectively in today's tourism marketplace? How can the organization develop strategic competitively advantage and continuously reposition itself for success in a constantly changing business environment?

The critical point is that the leaders must take actions on how to lead the organizations through the change, so that the new goal announced will be achieved.

Why to lead the organization through the change.

Changing is the process of walking from point A to point B, it takes time, that is why it is the process of walking, not jumping (Bion 2009).

Many hotels or resorts today do not take real actions on leading the organization through the change, they just take a short-term, next-quarter approach to manage the manage their profits and bottom lines (Block 2003).

Those companies that simply try to downsize and restructure the organizations in order to "jump" to the goal, they will never achieve the goal. For example, a major shareholder of a hotel expects that the hotel to increase productivity, so the general manager and the CFO are rushing to the goal by conducting the simple act of cutting costs, thinking that they had made a simple and fast way to achieve the goal, but the result they expected will never come, because they were trying to lead the organization to "jump", according to the Author Bion above, jumping is no the process of changing, which is never to be able to achieve the goal.

Just bringing about organizational change by simply doing things such as downsizing or restructuring does not bring the lasting, long-term results that desired by the organization (Christensen 2001).

This concept means although it seems that the organization had achieved from point A to point B, it never achieved a valuable goal. A valuable must be able to result the organization in a better position as long as possible, otherwise the goal would be nothing but simply making things worse by sending the organization back to starting point A or even backward.

Implementation of leading the organization through change:

Implementation of leading the organization through the change must be step by step, there are seven classic theories for each step to make sure the organization have the most effective way to achieve its goal.

There is an old Chinese saying that "a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step", which may be old and dated, but it is still meaningful that emphasizes on the importance of the start of changing process (Clegg 2000).

In H&T industry, a significant first step for the change journey would be developing a feeling for the general state of the organization, the situation it faces, and the magnitude of the change.

For example, the brand of a hotel is very famous, the leaders of the hotel had tried many ways to improve the hotel's reputation, but none of ways worked. One day, one of the leaders held the meeting for the directors of all departments about the good reputation of their neighbor hotel, and it is looking for some hotel for merge.

What the leader talked about is the sign for merging the hotel to its neighbor in order to solve the problem of the reputation, which implied the start of a change.

When going through the change, there is always a large number of information and issues needed to be collected, discussed, communicated and conveyed throughout the organization (Festinger 2007), so it is necessary to make a overall network of achieving the most effective communication among the staff for the information and issues. There is a business model called Network for Change (Festinger 2007) to help the leader finish the job.








And Support



Design, and





The top box of network provides the program with basic reason and direction for the change.

The box on the left-hander side provides the guidance for the change process.

The box in the middle completed the detailed work of the process.

The box on the right-handed side finalized and brings to life the final outcomes.

The box at bottom of figure provides technical and human process development that supports the needs of the process.

The model acts as a system of how the whole strategy works in the process, it is almost impossible for a hotel manager to tell a waiter to do in the process of change. But with this network, staff will have clear understanding about what are the tasks for them in the process of change, with whom to discuss about some certain issues, so that some incidents as misconduct or miscommunication will be avoided.

In the uncertainties of a change process, people don't hang on concepts, they hang onto people (Galbraith 2007). When path of change ahead is uncertain, people always look for the leaders, they trust and will follow them almost anywhere (Garfield 2004).

There always are the differences, opposition to the direction for the process of change, and most of staff stays in a wait-and-see stance, the best solution for this situation would be evoking the leadership for change.

For example, in a 3-star hotel, there is a strong need for the staff to improve their attitude to the guests by smiling. But they think smiling is not necessary, for they are working only at a budget hotel. For the issue, if their captains or supervisors could set themselves as examples for the change, they will sure to follow.

For the staff, the fear of changing are often strong enough to stop change efforts in their tracks, so many managers treat this natural reaction as resistance, and try to find the ways to eliminate it (Jacobs 2004).

Instead of trying to eliminate the resistance to solve the fear of changing for staff, leaders could focus on expanding the understanding and commitment among the staff (Katz 2004).

Most staff is afraid to change, because they don't even understand what the change will bring to them, let alone trying to make commitment to the change. For this point, expanding the understanding about the change would be the effective way to solve the problem.

For example, some front office female staff in the hotel is encouraged to take the night shift, but these ladies are afraid to do that given to the safety reason. So the manager should emphasize on the importance on the night shifts that the service quality of the night shifts, could be the reflection for the consistence of excellent service to a hotel, and they are also one of the important elements of evaluating the image of the hotel. So after this explanation, the ladies would think themselves as the persons to enable the service quality to the guests, they would feel very proud of doing that, so such thinking would help eliminate the fear of working at night.

Design is an intuitive act, not a logical solution to a defined need (Lakein 2003).

A design emerges from a pregnant void amid a flood of information (Lewin 2001).

When it comes to the design part of the process of change, the leader must think about what the process will be viewed by the staff, because they may have already been through so many processes of the change, they do not like to take any repeats of the old-fashioned process of change, which is the nature of human. So the duty for the leader regarding this issue is being creative.

For example, a beverage manager wants his staff to improve the serving skills, instead of making them practicing for hours everyday, why not hold a competition with fun and good rewards, so most the staff would be willing to take extra time to practice in order to improve their skills.

In the process of change, when it comes to the step of implementation, every staff in the company is curious about the new design and trying to discover his or her benefits in the new working system (Maurer 2006).

When staff begins to implement the new plan, it comes to a time of high energy, everybody come with huge anticipation and anxiety about what benefits they could get from the new system, but they always forget about the very first important thing is paying attention to the details of the works, not just think about their so called "benefits".

For example, a new F&B manager came on board, with a totally new working procedure for the staff, which is easier and more convenient for them to produce the performance. The staff are all very happy, because going by the new procedure, they don't have to work so many times of overtime, and they don't feel very tense any more, but when it comes for them to implement the procedure, things turned out to be not as expected, because the manger just created a sign that the works of the new procedure are going to be easier. But actually it does not mean that the staff is allowed to take it carelessly, it does mean that the procedure is the new plan to increase the productivity and reduce some of the unnecessary works for the staff. So he must have the plans to make sure the staff take the procedure seriously and implement it with care, though it is easier to handle than the previous one was. Otherwise, the staff would just take the easier procedure as the excuses of their less commitment toward their responsibility.

No plans for wonderful goals could be without monitoring system, because the plans are always accomplished by people (Bunker 2007).

Monitoring system is to enable the staff's performance in the process of change.

Metrics should be a strong force for achieving the desired organizational goal, while maintaining the organization as it is, it also a good reflective tool to evaluate how the staff are doing with the new policy.

For example, the general manager of a hotel announced a new policy for the staff, but he wants to know how well is his staff doing with the new policy. At this point, creating some metrics may be the most effective way to solve the problem. The general manager could ask the engineering staff to create a screen board, which is about evaluation with scores for the performances and commitment of working under the new policy. The criteria of the evaluation could be as simple as punctuality after the new policy, so the general manager could easily take a sense of how is his staff doing with new policy.

Outcome of the implementation:

Much of the work of executing the strategy for the process of the change will come naturally as the as the staff of the organization "get on with business". However, there are always chances for divergence, and contingencies always arise while then organization is still in flux, no matter how wonderful the strategy is (Nevis, 2007).

When the organization is at the early stage of the transition for change, the leader has to maintain a disciplined, well-organized process so that the transition does not "drift". And what is more important for the leader to do should be developing some interdependent perspectives among the staff, such as "how does the change relate to the whole system that my work unit is in"? "How does the change relate to me and my responsibilities, performance, and goals"? If the leader could equip every staff with these perspectives, the resistance on the road of leading the organization through the change will be effectively minimized and the organization could simply defeat others.


In today's business world, huge growth in new markets, cutting-edging technology, and unbelievable short product life cycles are forming an environment of permanent flux. Chang has not been any more of a strange and lifeless word. It has to be dealt with every minute in the fast changing business situation. The times of stability in organizations are basically gone. For those days, the organizations only need to establish systems that match environment. Today's organizations must e equipped with a new capability for dealing with rapid change under an international circumstance. A successful organization with high-performance must develop a characteristic of agility, and every staff in such organization must be institutionalized with the mindset and ability to work at changing environment.

Hospitality and tourism industry is full of fierce competitions, and usually, how well a hotel or resort is doing in the competition is mainly dependent on how fast and how effectively the organization responds to the changing environment. So how to lead the organization through the change is the biggest challenge for today's hospitality and tourism leader. It became a new character and an outstanding skill for a qualified leader, who is able to notice the change in time, to carry out effective plans to deal with the change, to lead staff while working closely with them to implement the plans and to establish monitoring and evaluating system to enable the excellent performance of the staff through the change.

The process of changing is mostly done by people. It needs people to think positively, to act responsibly, to reflect themselves objectively and to continue adamantly. So most of the efforts on leading the organization through the change should be focused on the effective and innovative communication with people, because people always want to see what is in the change for them, they start to decide whether they are doing to move or stay. This is the most common natural resistance for making the change happen, which needs the leader to develop a thoughtful leadership so that the people could be willing to get themselves on with the business of change.