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Leadership And Work-Life Balance

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The aim of this paper is to examine and critically analyse the literature previously written by professionals in regards to leadership and work-life balance. A leader will be described in broad form followed by an exploration through several leadership theories. The author of this paper decided to apply this research into the realm of work-life balance and work-life conflict in the hospitality industry as this is an area of high interest and passion and found great interest in finding a correlation between these two topics.

What is Leadership?

Certo and Certo (2019) and Jones and George (2020) similarly agree that Leadership can be defined as the process by which an individual influences other people while inspiring, motivating and directing. This is done in a way to achieve group and/or organisational goals. This individual is also then known as a leader. The central theme of leadership is getting things accomplished through people (Certo and Certo, 2019).

Leader versus Manager

From reading the above definitions, it must be highlighted that leadership and management are similar processes, however, they are not the same. A person can be a manager, a leader, or they can be both, or neither. Managers and leaders differ in how they create goals, how they approach achieving these goals and how they obtain and execute these goals (Griffin, 2014).

Nowadays, it is simply not enough for individuals to possess purely management skills. Today’s managers are expected to be able to manage a team but also lead a successful and ambitious team. A manager ensures the job gets done and targets are reached. Whereas a leader will focus more and cares about the team itself and how to influence and motivate them along the way. In order for managers to make the move to effective leadership, one must focus on organisational processes, while also having a genuine concern for their workers as people and not just uniformed robots (Certo and Certo, 2019). Now that leadership, managers and leaders have been defined, it is important to explore the literature in regards to the different leadership theories.

Leadership Theories

The Great-Man Theory

In 1847, Thomas Carlyle claimed that leaders are born and that only those men would become ‘natural-born leaders’. Developing on this perspective, Sidney Hook emphasised the impact that could be made by the eventful man versus the event-making man (Dobbins and Platz, 1986). Since then, the leadership theory has developed from initially believing that leaders are naturally born to a reflection of certain characteristics that can be developed and obtained to practice effective leadership (McGregor, 2003).

Trait Theory

Early theorists propose that born leaders were endowed with certain physical traits and personality characteristics which distinguished them from non-leaders. Trait theories dismiss the assumptions regarding whether leadership traits were genetic or acquired. Jenkins highlighted two traits, emergent traits (which are heavily considered genetic) such as height, intelligence and self-confidence and also effectiveness traits (based on experience or learning) such as charisma (Ekvall and Arvonen, 1991). Max Weber defined leaders with charisma to be “endowed with almost magical supernatural, superhuman qualities and powers”. The failure in detecting the traits which every single effective leader had in common, resulted in the development of trait theory (Nawaz et al., 2016).

Contingency Theories (Situational Leadership)

The theories of contingency recommends that no leadership style is precise as a stand-alone. “According to this theory, there is no single right way to lead because the internal and external dimensions of the environment require that the leader adapt to that particular situation”. In most cases, leaders do not change only the dynamics of a working environment, employees within the organisation change. In addition, the theories of contingency challenge that there is no one perfect way of leading and the style of leadership that is appropriate for some situations may not be effective for others (Greenleaf, 1977).

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Transactional Theory

The leadership theories by the late 1970’s and early 1980’s,the original perspectives of a leader now concentrated more on the exchanges between the leader and their followers. Transactional leadership was described as that in which leader-follower associations were grounded upon a series of agreements between followers and leaders (House and Shamir, 1993). The transactional theory was “based on reciprocity where leaders not only influence followers but are under their influence as well”. Bass and Avolio (1994) observed transactional leadership “as a type of contingent-reward leadership that had active and positive exchange between leaders and followers whereby followers were rewarded or recognised for accomplishing agreed upon objectives”. From the leader, these rewards might implicate gratitude, bonuses and career progression. For a job well done, positive support could be offered and in return, increase productivity and cooperation.

Transformational Theory

Transformational leadership distinguishes itself from the rest of the previously mentioned theories. The transformational leaders raise the motivation and morality of both the followers and their leader (House and Shamir, 1993). As per Bass, transformational leaders “attempt to induce followers to reorder their needs by transcending self-interests and strive for higher order needs”. This theory confirms the Maslow (1954) higher order needs theory. Transformational leadership changes and targets on beliefs, values and attitudes that enlighten leaders’ practices and the capacity to display change. The transformational leaders are considered by their capability to identify the need for change, gain the respect and attention of their followers and create a vision that guides change within the organisation (MacGregor Bums, 2003). This type of leader treats their team members as individuals and also as a whole while pursuing to develop their morals, ethics and skills (Nawaz et al., 2016).

What is Work-Life Balance?

Wong and Ko (2009) state that there is not one universal definition for work-life balance. Beauregard and Henry (2009) also agree with this lack of consensus however, they stated that this term refers to one or more of the following; organisational support for dependent care, flexible work options and family or personal leave. While Lazar et al. (2010) argue that work life balance practices are deliberately implemented within the company to reduce work life conflict while allowing employees to grow and work in other roles. This has been a rising trend due to the change in demographics and workplaces. Brewster et al., (2016) believe that it is almost impossible to draw clear lines distinguishing the world of work and the world of family. They question that the word ‘balance’ implies an idea of a clear equilibrium that may be achieved between paid employment and a life outside of the workplace

Work-Life Conflict

Work-life conflict refers to the dispute between work and life roles (for example, family, study, free time, and hobbies) (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985). Work-life conflict research is mainly based on conflict theory (ten Brummelhuis and van der Lippe, 2010) and role scarcity theory (Goode, 1960). Both theories highlight that the usage of one’s time and energy in one realm reduces the time and energy left for other domains, thereby reducing performance in that domain (ten Brummelhuis and van der Lippe, 2010). Munir et al., (2011) claims that low psychological wellbeing and low job satisfaction have been directly associated with work stressors. Negative work conditions that can create such work-life conflict for employees may include: job demands, inflexible and unsociable working hours, insufficient use of skills, job ambiguity, job intensity and insecurity and shift work (Michel at al., 2010).

Leadership and Work-Life Balance

Poohongthong, Surat and Sutipan (2014) argue the relationship between ethical leadership, work-life balance and organisational socialisation. Ethical leadership refers to a leader who has characteristics of responsibility and trustworthiness (Shukurat, 2012 cited by Poohongthong et al., 2014), morality, respect paid to others and awareness of human rights and equality. With these desired characteristics, the employees will trust their leaders and feel safety. They will voluntarily work for and support their organisations and promote responsible and strong working environments (Michael, 2005, cited by (Poohongthonget al., 2014). The socialisation of new recruits is considered crucial as it is the beginning point of entry into the organisation where learning and getting accustomed to the new organisation culture are most important and problematic (Gregersen, 1993, cited by Poohongthonget al., 2014). This process can involve giving new employees information and guidance through structured and formal procedures, which can in return help them to overcome anxiety, confusion and concern in the workplace which can in turn affected their attachment and loyalty to an organisation (Allen & Meyer, 1990 cited by (Poohongthong et al., 2014). This could be implemented through cross training new recruits in rotations through each of the major departments in a hospitality organisation (such as food and beverage, reception, accommodation, reservations and maintenance). This will reduce the unknown when starting a new role and familiarise new workers will the services and facilities available to guests and customers, therefore efficiently enhancing the guests’ overall experience. Once the authors’ research was conducted and the data was collected, it was found that the management of ethical leadership could help strengthen the organizational socialisation and morality of the business. If the employees can be motivated and encouraged by their leader to be happy and successful while at work, their work-life balance can be positively and effectively managed also.

While Poohongthong et al., (2014) believe that ethical leadership and work-life balance have a clear connection, Munir, Nielsen, Garde, Albertsen and Caneiro (2011) explore the mediating effects of work-life conflict between transformational leadership and job satisfaction and psychological wellbeing. It has been suggested that transformational leaders in particular foster healthy workplaces (Dunham-Taylor 2000, cited by Munir et al., 2011). Transformational leaders develop their followers’ interest and commitment to the organisation by encouraging problem-solving and specific behaviours through intellectual stimulation and by enabling new ways of working (Seltzer et al. 1989 cited by Munir et al., 2011). By applying transformational leadership behaviours, leaders can positively influence followers’ beliefs about his or her capabilities, which in turn increases their sense of wellbeing personally and also in the workplace (Munir et al., 2011). Wang and Walumbwa (2007) further suggest that transformational leaders are likely to encourage their followers to find solutions to work–family conflict issues; as such leaders are open to new and creative ideas about how to get the work done without detriment to work–life balance. This can be practiced through introducing job sharing, two part-time staff sharing and performing the work-load that one full-time worker would do in a given working week, therefore the two members share and ultimately reduce the stress and demands of the hospitality industry. Another suggestion may be allowing staff complete their required contracted forty hours in a compressed working week i.e. four day working week, having an extra day off each week, in return, minimising work-life conflict. (Byrne, 2005, Hartel et al., 2007 cited by Lazar et al., 2010). Wang and Walumbwa (2007) also found that transformational leadership moderated the relationship between family- friendly organisational benefits, organisational commitment and work withdrawal.

The findings of the empirical research performed by Munir et al., (2011) suggest transformational leadership styles may improve perceptions of work-life balance and employee wellbeing. Their findings add strength to the benefits of managers and supervisors adopting a more transformational leadership style for good work–life balance among employees (Wang and Walumbwa, 2007). This can be due to the fact that leaders that operate through a transformational style are supportive of their team’s individual growth while attending to their needs and acting as a coach/mentor.


Work–life balance initiatives such as changes to duration of shifts, decrease in weekend work, flexible working arrangements, including choice and control over shift patterns, and provision of childcare and paternity/maternity leave, can reduce work-family conflict, which in turn can increase work productivity, job satisfaction and psychological wellbeing (Allen, 2001, cited by Munir et al., 2011).

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Leadership And Work-Life Balance. (2022, February 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from
“Leadership And Work-Life Balance.” Edubirdie, 18 Feb. 2022,
Leadership And Work-Life Balance. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 31 Jan. 2023].
Leadership And Work-Life Balance [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 18 [cited 2023 Jan 31]. Available from:
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