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7 Habits of Transformational Leaders from AHLA ForWard 2024

The third and final instalment from AHLA ForWard. Check previous posts: AHLA ForWard Conference 2024: Recap + Personal Perspective and 7 Takeaways from AHLA ForWard. Leadership coach Rachel Vandenberg shares the content of her popular talk from Day Two of the conference.

My first job in hospitality was ringing the dinner bell at my parent’s converted farm house bed and breakfast. Throughout my youth and into my 20’s I served in many hospitality positions. One might think that I was made to follow in my parent’s footsteps to take over the hotel, but I had other plans. After a career in human rights and development, however, I came back. While initially struggling to adjust, I learned early on that I could have a big impact on important people and that my success as a leader was dependent on my willingness to look at myself in the mirror and continuously improve my leadership skills.

Rachel Vandenberg at AHLA ForWard in Chicago
Rachel Vandenberg at AHLA ForWard in Chicago

One of the things I struggled most with as a leader was employee turnover. And I’m not alone. While average turnover across industries is 12-15%, the average is 73.8% in hospitality according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The hospitality workforce needs better bosses, and Transformational Leadership provides at least part of the answer. 

Defining transformational leadership

Transformational leadership is a leadership style focused on inspiring and motivating team members to achieve exceptional results. It differentiates itself from other leadership styles with its focus on the support of individuals in their personal and professional development. It is a leadership style that is most effective when leaders are facing challenges that require innovation and adaptation or when leaders want to inspire team members towards a common goal. 

Becoming a transformational leader with identity based habits

In my workshop I introduced 7 identity based habits to guide leaders on their path towards transformational leadership. With identity based habits, small frequent improvements can lead to a big impact over time. With evidence and background from James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, we discussed how identity based habits vs. process or outcome based habits are more likely to stick. 

When leaders adopt these 7 identity based habits they create a sense of purpose, promote personal growth and development and enable connection and autonomy. As a result, leaders can more effectively lead change and lead through disruption while simultaneously creating a work culture where team members thrive. 

Breaking down the 7 habits

These habits include:

1) Be the example

2) Motivate through inspiration

3) Give personalized support

4) Propel continuous learning

5) Enable lines of sight

6) Build systems that empower

7) Empower team members to make it their own

During the workshop, participants were introduced to these 7 habits and we took a deeper dive into giving personalized support and empowering team members to make it their own. I used examples from my own experiences as well as the stories from my guests on The Travel Leader Podcast to make these theoretical concepts more relatable and actionable.

Find more leadership content on my website 

Rachel Vandenberg is a hotel owner and leadership coach. She has been co-owner of the Sun & Ski Inn and Suites, Stowe Bowl and Stowe Golf Park in Stowe, Vermont since 2012 and served as General Manager until 2023. In addition to her responsibilities as hotel owner, Rachel is the founder of The Travel Leader, a leadership content and coaching company. Rachel also sits on the board of her local destination marketing organization and founded a professional development retreat for women in travel called Accelerate Women Leaders in Travel. Outside of her career, she is a mom of three and loves to be in the woods on a bike or skis. Learn more at, and


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