10 Key Hospitality Management Leadership Qualities

Last updated: Jan 17, 2023

For leaders in businesses whose lifeblood is immediate consumer satisfaction, success hinges on accurately assessing customer needs and motivations. Nowhere is that more evident than in the hospitality industry, where the essence of success is understanding and satisfying a diverse array of people whose ideas of satisfaction range from stereotypical to peculiar. It follows that interpersonal skills dominate our list of 10 key hospitality management leadership qualities.

A salon manager stands at the front desk smiling

Customer and Employee Satisfaction as Leadership Metrics

In the hospitality business, whether you’re marketing roller coaster rides, hotel stays, entrees, or mixed drinks, customer satisfaction is the goal. If you’re the CEO, it’s a given that you must have the hard skills that drive process, from project management to computer technology. Interpersonal skills, however, are the secret to understanding customer needs and leading in ways that motivate employees to satisfy those needs. In short, your interpersonal skills are leadership qualities that deliver customer and employee satisfaction.

Spencer Stuart, a leadership consulting firm, offers compelling insight on what makes a successful CEO in the hotel business: “While successful CEOs from all industries share many common strengths, the CEOs running hotel companies share several specific characteristics. These include a close affinity with the guest, an ability to build collaborative and productive relationships and networks, and the flexibility to ‘fail fast’ and change course. CEOs who can imbue the organization with a commitment to the guest while grasping the realities of the role are best positioned to succeed in a rapidly changing industry.”

It’s fitting that in hotel management, where measures of success range from tangible to abstract, from the quality of room service to the atmosphere in a hotel lobby, a CEO who grasps the quirkiness of consumers and knows how to motivate employees is positioned to succeed.

Leadership Is Personal

None of the qualities listed here are inherent, but the degree to which each is evident in a manager can both define and stem from that manager’s personality. These soft skills, or personal skills, also are more difficult to teach than hard skills.

How do you rate your essential soft skills?


Competence here includes skills in listening and verbal, nonverbal, and written communication. The Corporate Coach Group contends that good communication is a function of these skill sets:

  • Ability to define goals
  • Ability to clearly state plans to achieve goals
  • Ability to communicate tasks to responsible parties
  • Ability to praise or reprimand in the course of delivering or receiving feedback
  • Ability to communicate effectively in all areas of the professional world while adapting to the vagaries of business and the relationships it requires


Collaboration is the linchpin of the hospitality business. In hotel management, for instance, the CEO who puts a premium on customer service but fails to promote teamwork through an exchange of goals, ideas, and information at all levels basically is disconnected from the employees who deliver the customer service. The best managers collaborate.


A study of 6,500 workers found that decisiveness was considered one of the top three attributes that can build a leader’s credibility. Decisiveness signals confidence, but that confidence will evaporate if you don’t build a reputation for well-reasoned and mostly beneficial decisions.

The other two attributes cited in the study were personal presence and open communication.


A Forbes article cites a finding that only 40 percent of frontline leaders are “proficient or strong in empathy.” The same article quotes a human resources officer at Betterworks: “We know from research that empathy is on the decline. That's unfortunate considering it’s one of the most critical capabilities needed to lead and drive employee engagement in a diverse, dispersed and constantly changing environment.”

A hospitality manager laughs with kitchen staff before their shift begins


Charismatic leaders inspire followers through force of personality and communication skills. Five characteristics that define a charismatic leader are confidence, creativity, vision, determination, and communication skills. People will do what the boss says because they want to keep their jobs. People will do what a charismatic CEO says because they are persuaded to want what that CEO wants.


Business is not static, so it follows that managers who can adapt are managers who can position a business for success. The takeaway here, according to Business 2 Community:

“The best leaders – the ones who can adapt to change most effectively – are able to quickly diagnose a situation, evaluate the challenges involved, and apply a diverse set of behaviors that are optimized for meeting the challenges they’ve identified. Moreover, they can perform a delicate balancing act to address a variety of challenges without getting ‘tunnel vision’ on one problem to the point that other issues become neglected.”


The important thing here isn’t so much what it means to be reliable, but what it means to be unreliable. In the hospitality business, a reputation for unreliability is a death sentence:

  • What if your employees know what you say and what you do often are at odds?
  • What if you consistently fail to execute on your company’s goals and mission statement?
  • What if customers spread the word that the quality of the product/services you provide is unreliable?


In the hospitality business, constant people-to-people contact means the attitude workers bring to the job will be on display for customers. A manager who is passionate about a project or a goal can instill that passion in employees. Conversely, a leader who brings no enthusiasm to work sets the stage for an uninspired performance by employees.


It doesn’t take genius-level emotional intelligence to appreciate that patience truly is a virtue. Impatience in a manager, however, is a lethal shortcoming. A manager’s impatience can yield many issues:

  • Poor understanding of circumstances/challenges
  • A hurry-up approach that produces incorrect assumptions and bad outcomes
  • Failure to gauge the complexity of a situation and develop sound solutions
  • Mistrust and skepticism on the part of the manager and employees


It’s about trust, honesty, honor, and ethics, and it’s a game-changer. A manager who lacks integrity will fail in the long game, and others will suffer greatly in the process.

The value of integrity is no secret. A survey of 1,400 chief financial officers found that 33 percent listed integrity as the priority in grooming leaders.

Two cafe managers review business data on a laptop behind the counter

Let USF Help You Put Your Leadership Qualities to Good Use

The USF Office of Corporate Training and Professional Education offers world-class training and development programs that are a perfect fit for working professionals. USF’s cutting-edge offerings for people seeking careers in the hospitality industry include USF St. Petersburg’s accelerated online Hospitality Leadership Program.

Contact the Office of Corporate Training and Professional Education if you want to know more about what we can do for you.