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Creating Great Leaders: What does the Hospitality Industry Require Today?

It may have been a long-standing debate, but recent studies now declare that leaders can indeed be made! While some advantages in leadership ability may come naturally to certain individuals, many of the most crucial skills and talents are developed through education and experience. And while having an innate “leader spark” is certainly helpful – it’s those honed abilities ultimately determining success or failure at leading others.

The World is Changing

As the world evolves, so too must our ideas of what makes a true leader. It isn’t enough to simply hold sway over others; today’s managers are expected not only to guide and direct but also inspire their team towards success together. The age-old question remains: can one command respect without obtaining it? In an ever shifting landscape, successful leadership is key to finding answers among uncertainty.

What are some of the leadership styles of the past that no longer work?
  • The Military Style: This style of leadership was based on do as I say and everything will be fine. The problem with this style is that it doesn’t allow for individual thought—let alone the empowerment to think!
  • Setting Unattainable Results: On the surface, this type of leadership seems good because it stretches the employee’s abilities. But this style only works if there are no barriers to production. If all goes well, the employee succeeds. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. Problems arise, obstacles pop up and then discouragement sets in. Instead, utilizing the strengths of the employee and understanding their weaknesses is a better approach.
  • Using Standard, Formalized Performance Reviews: Feedback given at predictable times of the year no longer works. Most employees are expecting an average score and a small raise. Instead of improving performance, this style waits an entire year to let an employee know when they are messing up.
  • Sticking to Traditional Work Hours: The hospitality industry is an ever-changing industry. Remaining dogmatic about housekeeping and bartending hours isn’t going to bring a flock of job candidates to the door.
  • Not Encouraging Career Progression: Many leaders of yesterday would keep employees in their place and not provide or assist with career paths. Some believed it wasn’t their job while others didn’t want someone to take their positions.

People Leave Because of Leaders and Managers

Becoming a successful leader in hospitality management is no small feat. With the US Bureau of Labor Statistics showing turnover rates as high as 80% for the industry, it’s clear that today’s competitive and changing environment presents many unique challenges – all with their own potential solutions if addressed promptly by an experienced leader. While there are numerous things to consider when seeking new employees or trying to retain current ones, ultimately it boils down to something within your power: listening attentively and taking appropriate action accordingly!

Why would someone leave their hospitality position?
  • Toxic workplace culture
  • Inability to work flexible hours
  • Low wages
  • Long hours
  • Poor communication
  • No opportunity for growth
  • Employee doesn’t feel connected
  • Lack of recognition
  • Overworked due to understaffing

Top 10 reasons for quitting a job

There are other reasons for leaving the hospitality industry such as relocation, but, the majority of quits are due to leaders.

Make the Change

Hospitality industry leaders of today need to leave outdated methods behind and embrace new styles for success. The key? A passion for guiding others, then developing the surrounding skillsets. Passion alone is not enough: good leadership requires dedication and practice in order to ensure a positive impact on those you lead.

What are some ways a hospitality professional can become a great leader?
  1. Mentorship-Learning from someone who is already succeeding as a leader is a good, fast way to learn. The hospitality industry is full of great leaders. Aligning with one is simply a matter of introducing yourself and asking for help.
  2. Coaching-This is not quite the same as mentorship, but has some of the same qualities. A good leadership coach will help you avoid pitfalls and can keep you on the right path. Costs for a leadership coach can vary. You can utilize a coach on a part-time and short-term basis to provide assistance when needed.
  3. Seminars and classrooms-Going back to school might seem too time-consuming, but it is worth the effort. Local colleges offer leadership training online or in a classroom setting a couple nights per week. Or, you can attend seminars to get the latest trends in leadership while rubbing elbows with other hospitality industry leaders.
  4. Experience-Good old-fashioned experience may take some time to learn, but they are lessons you’ll never forget. Being in a leadership role offers opportunities for failure, which can be a good thing. Failing forward is one of the best ways to learn how to lead.

Focus on Customers and Employees

Great hospitality leaders know that the key to success is achieving a balance of efficiency and customer service – providing quick resolutions while ensuring guests feel valued. The reality, though, is often more nuanced; in addition to motivating staff members, heroes of the industry must also be adept at persuasion and sales tactics in order to ensure customers leave with increased satisfaction levels.

The Four E's of Leadership Development - graphic

As a leader in the hospitality industry, juggling multiple tasks is an important part of your job. While ensuring customer service and satisfaction are top priorities, you also need to motivate employees towards excellence – no easy feat! Striking this balance between guest happiness and staff motivation will help ensure ongoing success for your business.

What Are Soft Skills?

To succeed in hospitality, leaders must go beyond the hard skills of project managing and scheduling. Soft skills – such as listening to employees, communicating effectively with guests and staying organized under pressure – are just as important for success. Developing these abilities requires concentrated effort and should be evaluated often to ensure they’re being applied correctly.

Seven soft skills every leader should attempt to master:
  1. Patience-Regardless of the issue, great leaders take their time to analyze the situation before acting or responding. It is better to err on the side of too much patience than impatience.
  2. Communication-A leader who makes it their goal to master the art of communication will be a great leader. The ability to truly listen should be a top priority when communicating with others. Then, the ability to clearly state goals and objectives and praise or reprimand a team member is invaluable.
  3. Decision Making-A study of over 6,000 workers found that decisiveness was considered one of the top three attributes that can build a leader’s credibility. Learn to make a decision with the information you have available. Team members are looking to you for answers.
  4. Showing Empathy-When dealing with both customers and employees, put yourself in their shoes. Feel what they are feeling. Someone once defined empathy as that when someone is crying, you should taste salt.
  5. Flexibility- Be like Gumby and bend from time to time. The hospitality business isn’t static, it ebbs and flows, and a great leader should too.
  6. Integrity-Have the kind of reputation that people know you can be trusted. Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No. Keep your word when you say you will do something and be honest in everything you do.
  7. Being Human-Don’t be robotic in your leadership style. Policies and procedures should be used as guidelines for others to follow. You don’t have to be dogmatic about what the employee handbook states if common sense is better. If someone needs time off for a sick family member, don’t look for ways to gig them for it. Instead, show compassion and strive to do the right thing.

Lead with Passion for People

Our world of hospitality is a world of people. When we put people first, our leadership shines. When a leader does what it takes to make customers happy, employees typically follow suit. Tony Hsieh, the former CEO of Zappos has an interesting story about empowering employees. In his book, Delivering Happiness, he states that he was bragging to a friend about his employees. He said that his employees offer the best customer service in the world.

Hsieh was traveling with this friend to Hawaii. When they arrived at their hotel, his friend called Zappos and ordered a pizza. Zappos is an online shoe store, but the employee said she would do what she could to help. The employee got his room number, called a pizza place, and ordered a pizza using her personal credit card. Hsieh was reluctant to put the story in the book for fear that others will call to order a pizza. But the point is clear. A great leader is followed. By making it a lifelong goal to master the above soft skills and making people a priority, anyone can learn to be a great leader in any hospitality business.


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