Hospitality Leadership

What does it mean to be a leader?  Much has been written to define what constitutes leadership, the role of the leader, the essential traits of leadership, and the habits of successful leaders.  Though the exercise of leadership is situational, the following traits are essential to any successful leader.

Leadership with vision:  Moving large and complex organizations in a particular direction requires the ability to formulate and articulate a vision of what the organization should be.

Ability to inspire others with a sense of purpose and excitement:  “Selling” the vision requires constant hammering home of easy-to-grasp themes.  Without the “big picture” sense of direction, employees become lost in the day-to-day detail of their jobs.  Leaders must engage with employees on all levels and view such interaction as an opportunity to “spread the gospel.”

Ability to transform vision into day-to-day action:  Long range vision must be broken down into a concrete plan of action for managers and supervisors at all levels.  Performance reviews and goal setting sessions play an important part in establishing and communicating near and long term objectives.

Communication and feedback:  Most organizational failures result from faulty or inadequate communication.  Informed employees are better employees.  Leaders should strive to create an environment that facilitates communication flow; where superiors and subordinates keep each other informed, quality and performance standards are communicated, feedback is constantly given and every employee knows where the organization is going and how it will get there.

Dedicated to needs and desires of members and guests:  The bottom line for any business is customer satisfaction.  Shortsighted policies that have a negative impact on this satisfaction will eventually show up on the bottom line.  The surest way to keep customers satisfied is to know what they want.  Employees at all levels should be required to constantly seek the feedback and input of members and guests.  Further, they should be instilled with a complete dedication to member satisfaction.

Proactive in finding problems:  Every organization has problems and some managers try to hide their problems.  A sure sign that there are problems in an organization is that no one ever talks about them.  Everything goes too smoothly and no one rocks the boat.  It is a simple task to ask questions, to dig a little wherever one goes. Inevitably problems turn up.  Often those most familiar with and vocal about problems are the line employees who deal with them every day.  A significant step in solving problems is to place a major and positive emphasis on problem discovery.  It’s the first step in problem solution.

Every problem has a solution:  Every problem can be solved.  It’s merely a matter of priorities.  Even the most complex problem can be broken down into its smaller solvable components.  Sometimes a solution is the result of compromise or many little steps that contribute to an improvement in the overall situation.  As much as possible, one should look for systems solutions to problems.

Bias toward action:  Accomplish something every day.  There is an insistent time factor in management.  New problems crop up every day.  When problems are not solved, the sheer volume of accumulating problems can paralyze an organization.

Strong organizational team building:  Motivation and morale is built on making every employee part of the team. Organizational loyalty seems to be the strong suit of the Japanese, but it is little more than a corporate version of the military’s esprit de corps.  Much of it goes back to pride and recognition, but it also depends upon building a strong organizational identity and constant communication.

Strong support for employees:  On any level, leaders serve two important constituencies – customers and superiors.  There is, however, a third constituency of major importance – employees.  Without the willing and committed involvement of this group, the organization will never achieve high levels of success or standards of excellence.

Self motivation and self starter:  A leader’s ideas, words, action and example are major determinants in the success of the operation.  No one should need to tell a leader what has to be improved in his or her organization.  He or she should formulate the vision and prepare the action plan to accomplish it.

presentation3-2Personal selling:  Perhaps the greatest marketing tool available is the committed involvement of leadership in the marketing effort.  By becoming actively involved in various organizations and actively selling the property at every opportunity, the leader promotes not only the operation, but himself/herself.  Since many decisions are influenced by personal loyalties, this type of salesmanship is often the most far-reaching and effective.

Strong financial manager:  Benchmarks speak volumes about an operation.  While they are not the complete story, they often point to troubled areas and make it easier to discover the underlying problems.  Month to month and year to year comparisons of income statements, balance sheets, cash flow analyses, key ratios and operating benchmarks are the basis of sound decision making.

Computer literacy:  Large and complex organizations create a mountain of data.  Without the ability to organize, compile and analyze operating data, the leader does not have the resources to make good decisions.  Computers are important tools toward this end.

Attention to detail:  A good leader must have an eye for details.  Much can be learned by observing an operation and a leader must spend a good deal of his or her time “out and about” to know what is going on in an organization.

High standards of quality:  Leaders must establish and disseminate their standards of quality.  When employees are left to decide quality standards for themselves, the best that can be expected is inconsistent and, at worst a complete absence of, quality and service.

A positive attitude that remains upbeat in the face of adversity:  Attitude is all-important in any endeavor.  Employees look to leaders for guidance, reassurance, and example.  A leader must learn to roll with the small ups and downs while keeping an eye on the larger vision.  The proper attitude should also be mixed with an upbeat good cheer that is invariably infectious.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.


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