Are good leaders born or made?

09 September 2010
Are good leaders born or made?

How do you motivate and inspire teams during austere times without resorting to monetary rewards? Sharon Glancy explores what makes a great leader.
Leadership is one of the most widely debated business subjects worldwide. Yet, with so many books dedicated to this topic, why is it that hospitality managers in a people-oriented industry still struggle to get excellent performance out of their staff?

In fact, management and leadership is one of three areas identified by People 1st as a major industry skill shortage, which begs the question - what makes charismatic leaders? Are leaders born or are they made?

A new leadership book,Aspire to Inspire - deemed to be the first of its kind for the hospitality industry - strives to answer these questions and provides an insight into what makes an exceptional leader and sheds light on the challenges some have faced to get to where they are. In his quest to identify outstanding leadership, the book's author, Alan Cutler, finds pockets of exceptional practice that the hospitality industry can benefit from during these tough times.

Cutler believes that far too many people in hospitality think they are leaders when actually they are managers who ensure the job gets done, rather than create a vision and inspire others to follow it. Encouragingly, he believes that leadership can be learnt.

However, these are testing and unprecedented times. Leaders and managers have to contend with numerous industry changes and challenges. When asked by Cutler what the most common leadership challenges are, managers and leaders resoundingly say that finding quality staff is the main stumbling block. They agree the hospitality industry needs to address its negative reputation, which is perceived by some to offer unattractive conditions of employment, including long, unsocial hours, low pay and aggressive management.

At the same time, staff increasingly have high expectations of employers and expect to be offered a range of benefits, including development training and more flexible working arrangements to provide a better work-life balance.

Therefore, leaders must do more to promote their organisation as a good company to join with excellent career development opportunities and job satisfaction.

Sharon Glancy is managing director of Stonebow, People 1st's training company


Further industry consolidation and brand competition

As organisations are getting larger, either through organic growth or by mergers and takeovers, leaders need to promote their brand and differentiate it from others in order to make it more attractive to talented staff

â- Increasing level of competition

The hospitality environment is very competitive so leaders and managers have to create a culture for staff that creates loyalty to the brand. Leaders need to encourage staff to see their long-term future with the organisation and meet their developmental needs

â- Higher customer demands

With customers expecting even higher standards of product and service, leaders need to empower frontline staff to exceed customers' expectations.

They must also find ways of inspiring them without necessarily offering additional financial reward and trust them to get on with their jobs without overbearing supervision

â- More people working in the industry coming from outside the sector

Pre-employment training is critical to ensure that newcomers have a fundamental knowledge of the industry.

People 1st's recently launched Employment 1st programme, for example, provides a consistent national standard of pre-employment training that employers can trust

â- An influx of workers from EU countries

The hospitality industry continues to attract a high percentage of workers who are born outside the UK, which requires leading a multi-cultural and very diverse workforce.

The challenge of identifying the motivational stimuli of each individual from every cultural background requires a particular type of leadership to be able to motivate everyone


â- Appreciate the power of communications or the destructive potential of its absence

It's one of the most important leadership skills that you can have. The need for shared information is constant but is especially important during difficult times. Be open in your communications with your team about the challenges facing the business and seek their buy-in for any remedial actions you are proposing.

â- Build supportive relations with people through mutual respect rather than the application of power

That requires changing from being a boss to being a team player and a coach to team members, yet understanding when to work as part of a team and when to lead as an individual. Old authoritarian styles of management are becoming redundant as employees expect to be recognised and respected for the contribution they make to their organisation.

â- Share your business goals with employees

If leaders are to encourage employees to join them on their journey, then staff need to know exactly where they are going and how they can contribute.

â- Appreciate the value of every staff member and understand that all successful teams are built from within

Exceptional leaders are able to inspire a self-generating machine that takes over when they are not around and takes complete ownership for their part in driving forward the business by providing an exceptional guest experience.

â- Be adaptable and flexible, and respond swiftly to difficult external influences or trading situations

This is essential in the hospitality industry, which is particularly prone to the effects of external influences - whether it's a global recession, a terrorist attack or an outbreak of food poisoning - and the negative media interest that inevitably follows.

â- Recognise that leadership is a journey and that new dreams must be set

Adapt a new mantra: ‘Is that the best we can do?' This question ensures that the staff member's opinion is sought and demands the creation and ownership of a shared solution.

â- Carefully consider the impact your operations have, both on the environment and on your customers

â- Expect managers to be ‘Premier League players' who can stand on their own feet and make their own decisions

â- Hold the belief that a leader is only as good as the people working in the business and that progress becomes the creation of shared values


Case studies of outstanding hospitality leaders featured in Aspire to Inspire can be found on" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">](

For further details on Aspire to Inspire go to [

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