While the hospitality industry sustains an ongoing need for managers at all levels, the need is even greater for managers who can cultivate the long-term mindset, capabilities and skills of a great leader. Not every manager has the skills to become a hospitality leader, but managers who can grow into that mantle are instrumental in driving long-term business success.
There are different types of leaders needed to help organizations in the hospitality industry perform at their highest levels. One is the team leader, typically responsible for the workings of up to 20 team members whose tasks are specifically delineated. The operational leader oversees a key portion of the organization, including several team leaders. Then there are strategic leaders who are responsible for the entire organization.
Whatever the hospitality leader type or level, these hospitality professionals can be distinguished by their behaviors and actions on four different fronts: their orientation toward people, the ability to communicate well, their dedication to a future vision and their reliance on and development of effective teams.
The hospitality industry is all about people. Managers who are likely to move into true leadership roles understand the value of encouraging and cultivating interpersonal relationships. These relationships are not merely between staff and guests, but among all staff members as a whole. This helps unite staff members in the common goal of delivering the optimal guest experience based on service and respect.
Respect is a key calling card of hospitality leaders when it comes to working effectively with people. They are fair in their dealings with staff, reward successes and use failures as lessons to learn by. They emphasize activities that will promote personal growth and satisfaction among the staff. For example, formal and informal mentoring programs are often used to help build workplace relationships, participants’ feelings of self-worth and level of confidence, and along the way they create a path upon which future leaders are created.
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Communication goes hand-in-hand with people skills. Leaders are able to sharpen their people skills when they foster open dialog, are clear in expressing their expectations and spend as much time listening as they do talking. It is one of the soft skills whose importance is frequently underestimated.
In an industry where guest relations are paramount, a leader must foster communication skills that can defuse complaints by guests and correct any problems with team members.
The most effective leaders understand and practice all forms of communication that create impact and buy-in. For example, verbal communication is critical, but when they are matched with non-verbal communications like hand motions and facial expressions, trust and believability can be more easily established.
Great leaders know their communication effectiveness sets an example for staff members along all rungs of the organization’s ladder. Their style for clear and open communication will set the stage for a more effective business environment where misunderstandings and misrepresentations are infrequent.
A leader’s ability to communicate what needs to be accomplished is vital to the success of any size task, according to Alan Cutler, author and owner of U.K.-based consulting company Hospitality Leadership. According to Cutler, “A person holding a leadership position without a clear vision, or the ability to communicate one effectively, will be leading the team towards an uncertain future.”
The difference between a staff member and a leader is perspective. Leaders don’t think of their position in the company as just a job and a paycheck, but rather a platform from which they can positively affect the business.
On one level, they have taken a deep understanding of their industry and applied it successfully to their careers. On another, in the true style of a leader, they have seen how their knowledge has created a clear vision of the future. They are now in a position to inspire others and make it a shared vision, representative of deeper aspirations. Success here makes it easier to attract and retain people who share a stake in the business’ growth and success.
Hospitality leaders set an overarching tone for effective teams, which are essential to successful organizations. When staff members work together it’s easier to avoid mistakes and issues that can lead to problems. Great hospitality leaders have learned to be good team players because that’s how they set the best examples for leading.
This means they treat others as they’d like to be treated, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and celebrating the individual and group achievements for the contribution they make to the organization’s success. When everyone is working together toward a shared goal, the outcomes can have much more impact. Hospitality leaders, equipped with the people skills, the ability to communicate clearly and effectively, and with a clear vision of the road ahead are more easily able to motivate and lead others.
The hospitality industry added more than 1.6 million jobs from the trough of the recession in 2010 through May of 2014 when employment levels recovered, with much of the growth happening in the in the foodservices segment of the industry, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Worldwide, the tourism and travel industry is expected to see employment rise by 2.4% a year through 2024, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.
This job growth, in the United States and worldwide, is creating huge demand for managers in all areas of the hospitality industry. Where the need is greatest is not just for hospitality managers, but for those who can lead organizations on the path to solidarity, growth and overall success. Understanding and developing these differentiators can make a true difference in your career and for your company.