In today’s blog, we chat with Alicia Brown, a specialist on leadership and management. We sat down to hear about her philosophy on leadership, what leadership means in hospitality, and tips on how to optimize your performance as a leader.
Whether you're an experienced manager or looking to progress your hospitality career, read on for great insights into leadership in hospitality.
"I am fascinated by human potential and what happens when we lean into the possibilities of ourselves
Can you tell us a bit about your company, Guide to Thrive?
If there is one thing you should know about me, it’s that helping people thrive is my jam.
At Guide to Thrive, what gets us buzzing is working with individuals and teams to foresee possibilities and live in alignment with their values; in life and then in business. It is what I believe sets effective and successful leaders from the pack.
Guide to Thrive started as a coaching business and now expands into running leadership programs across diverse industries. What we do well is take people from insight to action – because insight without change is just a booby prize.
Through our network of leadership specialists, we deliver unique and expansive offerings including soft skill training, creating emotionally intelligent workplaces, self-leadership coaching, corporate offsite retreats and collaborative leadership projects - all things to help you thrive.
What drew you to the hospitality industry?
I fell into it by chance. I am a people-person, and out of school I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do for my career. I met some people on a holiday – we got chatting, they worked in hotels and said I should look into it, and it went from there.
I started my career at 18 in concierge, and then spent 15 years in the industry. I worked in just about every role right up to General Manager. It was a lot of fun; no two days are ever the same with the people you meet and connections you make. Although I don’t work directly in hospitality now, I work with hospitality leaders to drive team performance.
You’ve helped individuals and teams thrive through your leadership and mentoring. What do you think makes a great leader?
I think it is important to understand that leadership happens at every level and not only when you manage people.
In my opinion, great leaders display authenticity, integrity, ownership, and commitment. They have a high level of emotional intelligence. They are constantly working on themselves.
They take time to get to know their people, they help people grow, and most importantly they communicate clearly, honestly and tactfully. They’re clear what they need from their team, and they listen to understand - not just to reply.
What are some challenges new leaders may face and how can they overcome them?
A transition into leadership may happen at the company they are already working with. One challenge in this could be that they are now responsible for people who used to be on the same level as them.
Some ways new leaders can overcome this is to hold one-to-one meetings with their team early in the role (first 30 days). Set boundaries early, set clear expectations, and keep them in the loop. Hit the reset button; share why they are so passionate about being a leader.
Be available to your team; those relationships are very important if new leaders want to achieve their vision.
Do you think there is a difference between a boss and a leader?
Yes! Anyone can say, “Hey, put that luggage in those rooms, or clear those tables.” That's giving people tasks to follow. Anyone can do that, and it isn’t necessarily leadership.
Leadership is a choice. It requires intention, practice, and consistency. A leader is someone who sets the direction; they create and coach a team that wants to follow them and be part of their vision.
A leader builds relationships and promotes change, growth and development. I see them as more proactive, long-term and big-picture focused, serving to inspire and motivate. A boss or manager is more reactive – short- to medium-term focused.
In business, good leadership translates to long-term success through high morale and high employee retention. People look to leaders to guide them in their actions – that’s one reason why it's important.
What I am more interested in is the importance of self-leadership: intentionally influencing your thinking, feelings and actions towards your objectives.
Work on your inner game to influence your outer game by having a developed sense of who you are, what you can do, and where you are going. Develop your EQ to effectively communicate and influence behavior. Build self-awareness and confidence, and develop the ability to handle stressful situations with grace.
There are three things that come to mind – leaders developing their emotional intelligence; leaders trusting their intuition; and a focus on well-being.
Leaders with high emotional intelligence have a more developed sense of empathy; this places them in their employees' shoes, resulting in more thoughtful and deliberate decisions - a more holistic approach to leadership.
Last year, Forbes released an article about why intuitive leaders are the most successful, talking about “go slow to go fast”. People today tend to move too fast to access a critical source of information – their intuition. Leaders get into a groove, but as a result sacrifice thoughtful reflection.
Well-being is also being brought into focus. In Australia alone:
- In the past 12 months, one in five people have taken time off work due to feeling mentally unwell
- 70% of leaders report regularly feeling unable to be attentive in meetings
- 59% of employees are unsatisfied; feeling physically depleted; emotionally drained; mentally distracted; and lacking meaning and purpose
Last year, Microsoft trailed a four day work week with their employees and saw a 40% increase in productivity. Wow! I see this being trialed more by other companies with similar results.
I think in the future we will see a greater emphasis on leaders looking at the way we operate, so that businesses remain sustainable in a fast-moving economy.
Faith it until you make it
- Don’t fake who you are – it becomes confusing for your team, and more importantly yourself. People see through a fake. Be authentically you.
Substance over speed
- Don’t rush in, thinking you need to know everything and make big changes to show your worth. Be consistent and committed in your approach.
Work with people, not above them
- Great leaders work with their people to understand them. This doesn’t mean doing everything they ask, but remaining connected to your team will enable you to make well-informed decisions.
Work on your personal brand
- Spend time getting to know who you are and what type of leader you want to be known as, and then each day show up as that person. Leadership is a choice.
Leaders are everywhere! Good leaders are plenty – great leaders are rare. Every team deserves a great leader.