Lead From the Front!

So much conversation is held in all industries about the importance of leadership.  Just think about the various terms used as descriptors when we talk about leaders:  powerful, dynamic, passionate, come to mind when we are thinking positively.  Weak, indecisive, incompetent come to mind when we are thinking less positively.  The common denominator, however, is the fact that the leadership skills are crucial to the success of any business.

In hospitality, those of us in the field connect the term leader with property management.  The General Manager, the Director of Operations, the Director of Sales & Marketing are all seen as leadership positions.  But what does this really mean?  Is your GM a leader because of his/her leadership skills, or because the GM is expected to be a leader?

For those who are responsible to someone further up in the food chain, the true leadership skills being displayed by “upper management” are not always viewed in the same light as they are by “upper management” itself.  But isn’t this exactly the point?  How much time do we as senior-level management of our properties or assets spend focused on the true leadership skills that our hourly associates or junior-level managers always tell us are so important?  Perhaps even more important, how much time do we as senior-level management spend working to learn what skills matter most to our colleagues throughout the property?

Senior-level managers of hotels need to first recognize the fact that they don’t know everything about their hotels, and they don’t know everything about their team members.  Realistically, they never will, but do they know what they don’t know?  Self-confidence and ego are important character traits for any manager to possess, but humility and understanding, and a basic willingness to listen, are enormously important as well.   True leaders know what they are capable of and they also know what they are not capable of.  Every one of us that considers leadership to be an important part of our job description should perform a leadership self-evaluation on a regular basis.

What does this mean in my day-to-day life as a property manager?  It means recognizing the difference between poking your head in the Laundry Department once a week as opposed to having lunch in the staff cafeteria four or five times per week.  It means creating a culture of communication throughout your properties to encourage associates and colleagues to share their views, their concerns, and their ideas regarding the success of the property.  A suggestion box may be helpful, but it’s not the answer. 

Think about it this way: one of the important metrics that we look at when we study guest satisfaction scores is that of “employee engagement.”  For our purposes, we define this “employee engagement” as the level at which our employees are proactively interacting with our guests.  As the senior management of our hotels, we need to turn this “employee engagement” definition upside down, and objectively evaluate how we are engaged with our employees.  If we accept the fact that employee engagement means practicing aggressive and proactive hospitality, how aggressive and proactive are our property managers in their interactions with their fellow employees?