Over 350 Interviews Reveal the Top 7 Leadership Skills Women Share
hertelier started as an idea and a "pandemic project" in March of 2021, and in just two years the platform has morphed into a movement, community, and source of inspiration and learning for women (and men!) in hospitality. What began as a hunch, that women were craving content relevant to them and their careers, has proven, in fact, to be a NEED.
In celebration of International Women's Day and hertelier turning two, we've thought about the recurring themes and traits for success running through the over 350 articles and interviews we've done with women in hospitality.
Be curious. Curiosity is one of the most popular traits successful women mention. What does it mean in practice? Soak up information––can be from meeting people, reading, TED Talks, podcasts, whatever––and let yourself go down rabbit holes and learn from others. Gilda Perez-Alvarado credits her curiosity as a reason she is CEO of JLL's Hotels & Hospitality Group, "I prefer to listen and interact. My curiosity is a quality that has enabled me to develop into the role I have now."
Be a great listener. Speaking of listening, this is another trait successful women mention often as a key to building consensus and leading teams. Anne Golden, who is GM and Regional VP for Pan Pacific Hotels, is a proponent of the idea of "servant leadership," meaning that her role as a leader is to actually serve the people who work for her. "How can I make them successful in their jobs? How can I offer them support?"
Speak to express not to impress. This is a theme columnist Nancy Mendelson turns to time and again, but was also mentioned by Amanda Hite, President of STR, the world's largest hotel data company. As Valerie Ferguson, head of resort operations at Disney, said, "Remember this: you wouldn’t be in the room if your voice, your knowledge, or your perspective wasn’t needed." If you're scared to speak up, Valerie says to "think of speaking up as a muscle you need to work," and she offers 4 tips for speaking up in meetings.
Be yourself and find your confidence. What does "be yourself" even mean? Building on point 3, it means not to hide who you are––if you're a mom, a woman of color, or just a woman in a room full of men. Just because you are different, it doesn't mean you are "less than," says Stacey Brown, Chief Human Resources Officer at First Hospitality. "If you are intimidated, take a deep breath, pull your shoulders back and chin up, and fake confidence until you find it coming to you naturally."
Be flexible. Many women spoke about the importance of being willing to pivot, particularly during and coming out of the pandemic. Interestingly, advice to be flexible came from Jenny Lucas, SVP of Operations, who has been with Loews Hotels & Co for some 25 years. She credits her long tenure with the company to her ability to adapt and change, "People use the term “legacy thinker,” as a bad thing, but I would challenge them to look at someone who has been around a while as one who has been flexible and agile, and has so much to share about the journey and lessons learned."
Take time for reflection. Whether as a regular practice of journaling or taking a career break as Crystal Vinisse Thomas, VP and Global Brand Leader for Hyatt, and longtime Expedia executive, Melissa Maher did, successful women take time to take stock of where they are so that they can be intentional about where to go next.
Dream BIG and take risks. From entrepreneurs like Marvina Robinson, Elle Rustique, Tracy Prigmore, and Susan Mahoney, who have literally taken the biggest chances on creating new products or companies, to long-time and successful hotel operators, such as Abby Murtagh who worked her way up through Hilton––women need to dream big and take the risky shots. Abby says, "If your dreams don't scare you they aren't big enough," she accepted her first GM role in Salt Lake City without even visiting the hotel! This was pivotal in getting her next role as GM of the Arizona Biltmore as it was coming off a $100 million renovation. Abby is now the first woman to lead operations at The Broadmoor, one of the oldest, most iconic luxury resorts in America.
Finally, and, this was mentioned by nearly EVERY WOMAN––we are all connected and women have a responsibility to bring each other along for the ride. Women thrive from supporting one another as mentors, sponsors, or friends, and the idea of the "Queen Bee" is a trope that needs to end with this generation. Joanne Taylor-Stagg, lets her native South African value system of “ubuntu,” guide her. "Ubuntu" is the idea that we are all connected and have a responsibility to our communities. As Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality, said, "lift as you climb," or make a bigger table, find extra chairs, do whatever you have to do... just bring more women along with you!
Happy International Women's Day!