The fundamentals of good leadership are attitude, empathy and responsiveness.
I’ve often been asked about secrets to managing people and leading teams. I like this topic, but believe there is a difference between managing and leading.
Managing is more process oriented, with tasks executed to timelines. Leading requires inspirationally motivating teams to display passion and enthusiasm, while promoting an atmosphere of harmony where every team member is given equal opportunity to shine and advance. Here are my fundamentals of leadership:
Attitude is everything. Unfortunately, great leaders have few people above them to give positive reinforcement, motivation or gratitude—be it clients or their own team members. Typically, they only hear when things have gone wrong. It can be a thankless, tough existence. Leaders are not just responsible, they’re also accountable. You have to begin every day in a positive frame of mind––it may be challenging, but invigorating. Good days and bad days intertwine; accept and embrace them. At the end of each day, if you are exhausted because you’ve been inspiring your teams and taking your business forward, you will sleep well knowing your clients are sleeping well because of your team’s performance. You motivated them to serve clients with enthusiasm and a positive outlook! Enthusiasm is contagious; both teams and clients are charged by high-energy leaders.
Don’t get mired down in technical minutiae of day-to-day operations. That’s a sure way to stop leading. Great leaders search for new, innovative ways of doing business and building the business; exploring new thinking to pass on to those who develop the policies, procedures and structural support systems that make ideas work.
Additionally—especially in hospitality—teams need to be culturally trained and led by a leader who lives that culture daily. This means our time must include creating a cooperative, comfortable, trusting and inspiring environment. Show you are a team player by letting your teams do their jobs, but being there to roll up your sleeves and support them as needed. You are accountable, so any problems, hard decisions or bad news must be shared; that’s YOUR job!
Great leaders are “in-tune” with their teams. Empathetic leaders understand the needs of others and comprehend the motivation and intent of people. This skill is a huge component of leading effectively. Teams view these leaders as friendly, tactful, sympathetic and trustworthy—allowing the leader to be more persuasive, with others happy to follow.
Leaders need to be responsive and perceptive, which builds an incredible bond. I believe it’s critical to get back to employees about their questions and concerns sooner than they expected. Our teams love sharp and quick opinions, as well as speedy and thoughtful replies. Leaders with these qualities often have the lowest employee turnover percentages.
Leaders stand by team members, and only deviate when the employee knowingly causes the business harm. Real empowerment is allowing your team to make decisions, and occasionally being wrong is part of life. If they were wrong, take the heat, fix the mistake and use it positively to teach and ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Leaders also surround themselves with “like-minded” people outside of their own team environment. This is critical in their own personal development to stay current, focused and alert to new possibilities. Leaders nurture new relationships in which they can continue to be inspired, learn and grow.
Leaders are prepared to try anything new or creative to solve a problem, but the work must be active rather than theoretical, and on a fast timeline to completion so they can begin working on the next challenge.
Great leaders are typically strong multitaskers, but must be careful not to leave too many tasks hanging without completion. Because many leaders have minds that are racing, they are perceived as having attention deficit disorder. They are simply using their knowledge of the past, and wisdom of the present, to craft a successful future.
Leaders read everything—often in soundbites, but with razor-sharp minds. Their ability to absorb information quickly is a great asset! They take notes, carry highlighters, tear out pages or excerpts from newspapers or magazines and often keep a file of these. I’ve done this for years, it provides me with stimulation and resourcefulness. Stay current so you are focused on what matters to your team, your business and your industry. By being current, inquisitive and always alert to possibilities, great leaders are innovative and imaginative. It provides our teams with stimulation and demonstrates our willingness to create a workplace that promotes great ideas to, with and through others.
And finally, most importantly is this: leaders often get things wrong, but rarely ever when it really counts.
In memory of my wonderful friend Charlie Lotter, a truly great world-class boutique hotelier and leader who died recently. He’s up there now, doing room checks for the new arriving guests!
Euan McGlashan is cofounder and managing partner of Valor Hospitality Partners, a hotel development and management company based in Atlanta and London that owns and operates properties in the U.S., Europe, and Africa, with an additional 10 sites in various stages of negotiation, development, or construction. Additionally, a related company—PMR Hospitality Partners based in Cape Town—operates several hotels and resorts in Africa.
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