Task and Relationship Oriented Leadership in Marriott Hotels

Task and Relationship Oriented Leadership in Marriott Hotels

Leading is a dynamic process in a work environment, which according to Carter, et al (2013) can influence group members to commit themselves freely to the achievement of group tasks and goals. Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee (2013: 6) define leadership style as the way a leader gives directions, motivates employees, and implements the organization’s strategic plans. Many studies of leadership however focus on the behavior or style of the leader, with their argument being the way in which the leader exercises leadership. There are several types of styles in leadership but this study analyses how Marriott Hotels applies the task-oriented and relationship-oriented leadership styles.

Marriott is a multinational corporation in the hospitality industry whose performance has been increasing annually and by 2008; the company was reporting sales of $13 billion annually from 3,000 lodging properties in the US and 67 other countries including India and China, (IBS Centre for Management Research, 2004). Globally, the company has about 151,000 employees who hail from many nations and who are estimated to speak more than 50 international and local languages.

In task-oriented leadership, a lot of emphasis is on work accomplishment and performance. For example, Marriot hotel management often considered task-oriented leadership to ensure strict accountability of every stage of its operation as a hospitality industry. In this type of leadership, according to Hannagan (2002), a more directive leadership approach is used. Since Marriot hotel management depends on the members of the public for its profits, accountability, and responsibility are important and are exercised through assigning roles and supervision by leaders e.g. in procurement, hosting guests, customer care, etc.

Two types of task-oriented leadership exist i.e. task-oriented internal leadership and task-oriented external leadership (Auh, Menguc, and Jung, 2014). In task-oriented internal leadership, there is much more supervision and tight control from the leader. The role of leaders in task-oriented internal leadership is to plan, coordinate budget and make decisions on issues affecting the organization, whereas in task-oriented external leadership the role of the leader is to expand and establish the organizational domain (Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee, 2013). In the context of Marriott, leadership is more concerned with the external factors because the business revenue is also derived from the outside stakeholder e.g. suppliers, customers, and policy implementing agencies (Aswathappa, 2002).

In external and internal task-oriented leadership, decision-making is centralized and the style is more authoritative. The Marriott hotel management for instance mainly focuses on achieving the organization’s goal and objectives and somehow neglects to some extent, the human factors. Auh, Menguc, and Jung (2014)contend that direct leadership improves employees’ satisfaction when the task is ambiguous and stressful because it helps clarify the situation. In Marriott, the leader mainly makes strategic plans. This is consistent with Balkin, Cardy, and Gomez’s (2005) argument that planning is a process that helps leaders set objectives for the future to achieve the goals and objectives of the organization.

However, given the authoritative nature of the task-oriented leadership style, there are several challenges Marriott faces with this leadership style. Given the centralized nature of decision-making for the hotel, employees are discouraged to be creative because they are afraid of breaking the rules. According to Giessner, et al (2013), authoritative leadership allows a leader to make decisions without consultation and expects subordinates to accept their decision. This is indeed observed in Marriot hotels where many employees are either relinquished or forced to resign for ‘messing’ in the organization. As a result, the employee turnover is quite high. Therefore, this form of leadership hinders creativity because the employees have no autonomy.

On the other hand, relationship-oriented leadership style. This leadership focuses on maintaining good interpersonal relationships. An example of relationship-oriented leadership is a company that is relaxed on the methods as long as the results are achieved. The leader is not concerned about how and when their employees work provided the outcome and the result are successful. In this context, the leader is more concerned with interpersonal relationships. In this leadership, the decision has delegated the authority to the employees. The leader uses a more participative approach. This approach has become a slogan in modern leadership because it implies that subordinates should be provided with an opportunity to participate in decision-making made in their work setting.

In relationship-oriented internal leadership, the leader encourages employees to seek self-fulfillment by giving them incentives in case of good performance and encourages good interpersonal relationships which reduces conflicts in the organization. Relationship-oriented external leadership is more concerned with managing the organization’s external environment, for example, training the staff to deal with challenges from the external environment. For the case of Marriot hotels, leadership focuses less on the participative approach which according to Giessner, et al (2013)involves decentralizing decision making, a real measure of leadership style that has to do with how a leader makes decisions. A leader who involves employees in decision-making is rated highly by the employees. Leaders of the high producing group tend to be employees centered in their approach. When employees are given autonomy in their work, they tend to be more creative and therefore end up increasing the productivity of the organization an aspect that is perhaps missing in Marriot hotels.

In conclusion, whether a relationship or task-oriented, leadership is important can provide the best results in product-based organizations. Leaders should evaluate their organizations before applying task or relationship styles because different tactics are greatly influenced by the employee’s attitudes and the leader’s personality. For instance, if the employees are not responsible, the leader may have to use a more authoritative approach like task-oriented leadership which is tighter and highly supervised to make them work in order for the goals of the organization to be achieved. When personal relationships are causing a problem in task execution, a sandwich of task and relationship leadership styles could be ideal.


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Auh, S., Menguc, B., & Jung, Y. S. (2014). Unpacking the relationship between empowering leadership and service-oriented citizenship behaviors: a multilevel approach. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 1-22.

Balkin B., Cardy L. and Gomez M. (2005) Management; people performance change. Irwin: McGraw Hill.

Carter, M. Z., Armenakis, A. A., Feild, H. S., & Mossholder, K. W. (2013). Transformational leadership, relationship quality, and employee performance during continuous incremental organizational change. Journal of Organizational Behavior34(7), 942-958.

Giessner, S. R., Knippenberg, D., Ginkel, W., & Sleebos, E. (2013). Team-oriented leadership: The interactive effects of leader group prototypicality, accountability, and team identification. Journal of Applied Psychology98(4), 658.

Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R., & McKee, A. (2013). Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence. Harvard Business Press.

Hannagan T.  (2002) Management; concept and practices. Pearson Educational Ltd: prentice hall.

IBS Centre for Management Research, (2004). Human Resource Management – Best Practices at Marriott International, USA: ICM