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Impactful and meaningful leadership

Posted by Damien O'Malley on Sep 4, 2019 4:30:00 PM

Being a great boss is one thing but becoming a leader of your team is something else entirely. A leader creates a workplace that enables growth, positive interactions and provides support to team members. So, what does it mean to be a leader and how do you become a great one?

impactful and meaningful leadership

In this blog post, Damian O'Malley from the OMC group defines the importance of being a good leader in the hospitality industry. 

What’s our definition of leadership?

If you go into any quality bookstore and you make your way to the business section to explore the concept of leadership, there will be 1000’s of great (and some not so great) books with an equal number of theories on leadership.

Think about this question: “What do I need to do differently to be a better leader?”. It can definitely be confusing to define leadership as all of those theories are, to a certain extent, correct.

Having delivered leadership workshops and programs to over 500 hospitality leaders, the perceived role of leadership, which resonates the most in the hospitality industry is:

Leadership is the ability to guide and influence others, to complete a task or outcome the way I/we want.

Most hospitality leaders with who we have shared this nod their heads and agree – “Yep, that’s how I spend most of my time when I am with my team”.

The hospitality leaders we work with have some challenges with other parts of their role but what keeps them awake at night is “How do I get my people to work better together” – hence our definition.

When we ask hospitality leaders “What does your team do when you are in another part of the venue? Or at home? Or on leave?”, we usually get a quizzical look, a bit of a grimace and then, a painful smile – this is the real challenge.

Leadership is then, the ability to guide and influence others to complete a task or outcome the way I/we want. When I’m not there! 


Between good and poor leadership

We believe that in most circumstances, leadership can be learned. It consists of learning a range of skills and behaviors that can be deployed to achieve leadership goals.

If we feel the skills and behaviors used by our leaders are appropriate in a given situation, then we tend to identify that as good leadership. Subsequently, our experience of poor leaders may not be a result of the leader themselves, but the result of how they implemented their skills and behaviors inappropriately.

Let’s think about our own leadership experience. The highs of our leadership are when we have managed to align our skills and behaviors with the situation. Similarly, the lows may be seen when we walk away from a team member interaction and think: that didn't seem to go well. In these cases, we may not have adopted the appropriate style and leadership tools.


Finding your leadership style

Some of the most impactful development we can have as leaders is when we take time to explore our own leadership behaviors. Our style of leadership is influenced and informed by a wide range of experiences such as our history, our experience, our beliefs, and our values.

When we work with leaders, our focus is not on beliefs and values but it’s in leadership behaviors. Yes, we do believe that there’s a need for an alignment of philosophy that underpins effective leadership. However, our experience suggests that most leaders do actually want to be better leaders. This brings us back to our key question: “What should I do differently?”

We recommend starting with a proven leadership framework and diagnostic. Find a way to understand your own leadership styles and then seek constructive feedback from those around you (your direct reports, your peers, your bosses) – what do they see you doing and hear you saying?

At OMC Group, we use a number of tools and frameworks to help leaders understand their own preferences. One of our favorite frameworks (that really resonates in the hospitality industry) is the Human Synergistics Circumplex model.

When we work with participants and ask them to describe their ideal work environment. The typical response is that people want to work in an environment where:

  • There are realistic but stretch goals
  • That means something to me
  • I get feedback along the way
  • And it’s a good team environment

If this is the environment that my team wants, there is a good chance that this is also the environment that I want to work in as well.

The benefit of exploring your own leadership styles through something like Human Synergistic is that you get a real and accurate evaluation of what your leadership style is and then assess what you can do to change it.


Taking the lead

You may not be in a position where you can access a comprehensive assessment process, so what do you need to do?

Think about all the great leaders in your life, what are the attributes they displayed that made you think they were great good? Create a list and be specific.

Now think about all of the not-so-good leaders in your life, what are the attributes they displayed that made you think they were not good leaders?

Now you have a benchmark – what’s next?

Step 1      Assess yourself (openly and honestly)

Step 2      Ask people who you trust and who have worked with you enough to assess you

Step 3      Compare the results. It’s not about who is right and who is wrong, it’s about where is the alignment between what you are trying to do and what they are seeing you do

Step 4      Congratulate yourself for what’s working

Step 5      Pick one thing to do differently and give it a try

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The impact of change

Why should you change? There is a whole list of reasons, but I think the most meaningful one is because leaders have an impact.

Right now, you, as a leader, are having an impact on the people you lead. The big question is, what do you want them to be saying about you in five years’ time?

I can still remember the manager of the pizza restaurant I worked in during high school and university in the late 1980s. I had no idea what I wanted to do when I finished school (or university to be honest), but as I reflect back, Rick (the manager) somehow got me interested in this thing called “customer service” and working together. He showed me how it could be fun, how it could make a difference, and how it led to better business. Nearly 30 years later, I spend a lot of my time doing exactly the same thing as my career - not the pizza part, but the leadership and business side.

My question again to you is: what do you want your team to be saying about you? What’s your legacy?


We all know from our own experiences that our great leaders, the ones who have had a positive impact on us, the ones we aspire to, and the ones we think about when we face challenges have one thing in common – they are all who they are which means that they are authentic! What are your tips on becoming a good leader?


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Damien-OMalley Damien O’Malley is a facilitator, consultant and executive coach specialising in leadership development, transformational change, culture development & people and strategy capability enhancement. He has delivered leadership development programs to over 500 hospitality leaders and consults with hospitality business to enhance people performance.


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Topics: Hospitality managers, Hospitality staff, Hospitality training