5 changes you can make to be a great leader

be a great leader

Most people have not mastered these five changes you can make to be a great leader. They take work and some changes of mindset, but are worth the effort.

We often hear leaders in hospitality, spa, and wellness say their team members are their greatest assets. This may be true in any business, but it’s particularly true here. Hospitality workers are what makes “hospitality,” the definition of which is “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers,” hospitable. Without them you don’t have a hospitality business. You have a building with beds in it.

It takes a special type of person to be a great leader in this industry. Being a good leader takes dedication and hard work; being a great leader takes a lot more than that. Great hospitality leaders motivate and inspire the teams that make guests feel welcome and valued, and make the difference between a bad experience, a good experience, and a life-changing experience.

We’ve written about how to be a better spa director in the past. Among the common things good leaders do are listening, leading by example, and aligning goals. Now let’s look at some keys to being a great leader. Most people have not mastered these, and they take work and some changes of mindset, but they are worth the effort.

Five changes you can make to be a great leader

1. Learn to manage your ego

We all have egos. The worst leaders let their egos lead and the best ones don’t. As Rasmus Hougaard writes, “a big ego makes us have a strong confirmation bias. Because of this, we lose perspective and end up in a leadership bubble where we only see and hear what we want to. As a result, we lose touch with the people we lead, the culture we are a part of, and ultimately our clients and stakeholders.” Breaking free of that ego can be hard, but it’s something all the best leaders have to do. Managing your ego also allows you to be receptive to criticism. The best leaders take criticism well. The worst ones get defensive and angry with the messenger, because their egos get in the way. If you can’t take criticism well, you can’t improve, and if you can’t improve, you will never be great.

2. Find your courage

We’ve talked a lot about leading by example in the past, and sometimes that means being courageous in order to inspire courage in others. In most cases, this isn’t going to mean running through a burning building or taking a bullet for a team member. What it might mean is being brave enough to try new things, like unfamiliar technologies or expansion into new territories. Graciously handling criticism requires courage and admitting one’s mistakes requires courage. It takes courage to support your team and have their backs when customers are demanding and difficult and it takes courage to be vulnerable and humble. Bad leaders lack the courage to face this reality. Good ones are scared and do it anyway. It’s not courage if you’re not scared.

3. Start encouraging people to speak up

Even if it’s something you don’t want to hear. In a two-year study on team performance, Google found that the highest-performing teams have one thing in common: psychological safety, which, according to Harvard Business School’s Amy Edmondson is, “a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.” In a TED Talk, Edmondson explained that psychological safety encourages “a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking.” Too many people would never go to their boss with a workplace concern, particularly if that concern involved questioning the strategy or decisions made by the actual boss. And that is to the teams’ detriment. It’s easier to work together in an environment that encourages courage rather than fear.

4. Make it OK to fail

As mentioned above, a psychologically safe environment is one in which people are not afraid of being punished for their mistakes. An HBR article states, “psychological safety allows for moderate risk-taking, speaking your mind, creativity, and sticking your neck out without fear of having it cut off,” and notes that these are the behaviors that lead to market breakthroughs. Edmondson also found in her research that better teams reported higher error rates than other teams. This is not necessarily because they make more mistakes, but rather because they’re more willing and able to talk about them. Back to the previous point, Edmondson found that the highest performing teams were those that were part of a psychologically safe environment and “in which everyone, from the lowest ranking employee to the highest, felt empowered to speak up.”

5. Start trusting people

If you want people to trust you, you have to show that you trust them. Delegate decision making. Sometimes people have better ideas and more clarity than you do. You are incapable of being right all the time. In order for a team to succeed, that responsibility must be shared. When people are given ownership of a decision, they’re driven to take responsibility for the success resulting from that decision. When this success has been clearly defined in a shared company goal, you then have a team of people empowered to work towards that goal. When you just tell people what to do based on what you alone have decided, it’s a little less motivating. Trust might also mean allowing employees to problem solve without having to come to you for permission. For example, when a customer or scheduling issue needs resolution.

These are the things that next level managers do. Not everyone tries to master them, but everyone can master them.

There is a lot of competition in spa and hospitality. It’s your people that set you apart. Help them succeed by being a great leader. 


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Spa Executive is published by Book4Time, the leader in guest management, revenue and mobile solutions for the most exclusive spas, hotels, and resorts around the globe. Learn more at book4time.com.


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