Behaviors of successful leaders in spa and wellness

behaviors of successful leaders in spa and wellness

These five behaviors of successful leaders in spa and wellness will make or break a business.

It’s fairly well known that successful leaders, regardless of industry, tend to display common behaviors.

The best leaders are good listeners and communicators and they have the self awareness to monitor their responses and reactions. They think before they speak and they work to elevate their employees, rather than keep them down, because they know that’s what makes a business thrive. Let’s take a look at some of these specific behaviors and how they apply in spa and wellness. These are the habits and actions that will make or break a business.

We often have the pleasure of speaking with some of the top leaders in this sector, so we took an opportunity to look back at some of their past comments about the things that make successful leaders.

Here are five behaviors of successful leaders in spa and wellness:


All good leaders are good listeners. Great spa and wellness leaders listen to their team members and respond to needs and wants. They listen to their guests and do the same to improve the guest experience. They listen to hear about what’s happening in the sector, with trends, news and developments, to stay on top of these things.

Shangri La’s Todd Hewitt told us in his Spotlight interview, “When you listen to the guests and staff firsthand, you get a totally different perspective of the operation.”

If you don’t listen, you can’t learn, and if you can’t learn you can’t grow, and if you can’t grow you can’t manage.


Great leaders are lifelong learners. The world is always going to change and we have to keep up, and spa and wellness is an ever changing and growing industry. Developments in science, technology, and tourism mean that things are always shifting, and change can be daunting and terrifying for those who are not always learning. But for those with a lifelong passion for learning, change is exhilarating. Challenges become puzzles to be solved and hurdles to overcome.

Education comes from many sources and in many forms. It’s not just acquired through books and courses. We learn from our peers and mentors, and from our employees. Hewitt also told us, “You have to want to learn something new each day and be willing to have your staff teach you something new too.”

Thinking creatively

Creativity is an important key to success in spa and wellness. There are a lot of spas out there, so why should someone choose yours over another? Thinking creatively will help you stand out from the competition and elevate your guest experience – to create something special.

Jeremy McCarthy of Mandarin Oriental told us in his Spotlight interview that, early in his career, he met Peter Greenberg, a Travel Correspondent for Good Morning America at the time. McCarthy said, “I asked him how I could get my spa on television. ‘Getting your spa on TV is simple,’ he said. ‘All you have to do is do something no one else is doing or do something better than everyone else is doing.’

“I quickly realized that even though I was working at a very nice luxury spa, we were really doing all the same stuff that everyone else was doing. For the rest of my career, I have always taken that advice to heart and tried to do things better or differently than everyone else.”

Standing out requires creativity, and success in spa and wellness requires that you stand out.

Leading by example

A few times in the past, we have quoted Shane Bird, of Turning Stone, in his Spotlight interview, saying that the key to managing a successful team is “being willing as a manager or director to do everything,  and to really get in the trenches.” Bird said a manager cannot stay in an office.  “Your team has to see you engaging the guests in the way you want the guests engaged.”

He added, “It’s being a part of the everyday operations as much as you possibly can. I’ve always been very hands on. At times, I’ve actually been chided by my superiors that I’m a little too hands on.”

We quote this one a lot because it’s so important.

Leading by example is behaving in the way that you expect your team members to behave. People don’t respect a leader who wants them to give something that they, themselves are not willing to give.

Empowering others

Great leaders empower their team members to make decisions and grant them the autonomy they need to do their jobs well.

Andrew Gibson, of the Wellness Tourism Association, told us in his recent Spotlight interview, “I’ve seen, and worked for, many different types of successful leaders. One thing they all have in common is the ability to motivate. You have to be able to motivate people.

“But perhaps the most difficult part of being a leader is learning to let go. You appoint people, give them a clear vision and achievable goals and support them towards those goals. Every member of the team should have goals or clear objectives. And then you have to trust them and let them lead. And you have to accept when doing that, that they will do things differently from you, and even make mistakes. If you want to build a great team that is successful and enjoys what they’re doing, you have to accept that some things are not going to go quite the way you want or expect them to go.”

Empowering others mean relinquishing some of your control, and allowing people to do what they will do without interfering.

We can all do our best to embody these five behaviors of successful leaders.


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