The Real Impact Of Hotel Leadership

You hold an important position. You sit in an important seat. Your words, actions, mood, and habits affect and impact others in ways that even you may not appreciate or fully understand. Your work ethic, sense of direction, and ability to get things done impact those around you. As the leaders of your hotel, you are the one who makes the tough decisions, carry a huge weight, and lift up or tear down the fabric of the culture. It can be a lonely seat because you may make decisions that are not popular and the pressure of the position can wear you down. However, this is your calling and the strength you provide changes the lives of your staff and even their circle of influence. Having said that, what type of leader are you and what does it say about the rest of your team?

Ask yourself a few questions

  • When you walk down the hall, do people gravitate towards you or find the nearest exit?
  •  Do people ask your advice or try to avoid you?
  •  Do you command respect or resentment?
  •  Do you think only of your To Do List or do you value the concerns of others?
  •  Does your staff Inspire or Irritate your day?

In short, what type of leader do you think you are compared to what others think? Do you even know? Does it concern you to find out? If you are like the best of the best, Absolutely It Matters!

Hotel leaders are responsible for many things. They have to manage guest expectations, staff expectations, and ownership/management company expectations. How does one balance that because the priorities are different in each category and sometimes they seem to be pitted against one another? Having the ability to successfully manage expectations, where everyone is in a unified state, is a tricky situation and requires diplomacy and tact. This is where your strength and confidence as a leader must kick into position for maximum success and opportunity. There are numerous attributes a successful leader must have and cultivate to be considered a good /great leader. Some are natural in nature while others are a learned process. As you read the below list, which ones are your strength and which ones require some work and focus towards becoming more proficient?

  • Leaders see the best in people
  • Recognize a decision has to be made
  • Accept responsibility for what falls short
  • Can work and live the vision consistently
  • Recognizes that everyone plays a role
  • Genuinely cares about others
  • Demonstrates leadership during tough times
  • Will spend quality time with the team to ensure engagement
  • Holds you accountable
  • Able to get their hands dirty
  • Understands the different needs of the team
  • Accepts nothing but your best

 This is a pretty lengthy list. In fact, it is far from complete. In your own success walk, I am quite confident that you can add to it with your own perspective. The truth is that all of us started at a certain level. I began as a Housekeeper back in 1986 making $3.55 an hour. To this day, I vividly remember how difficult the job was on my back and physical being. I also remember how this department was seen as less than especially compared to the front desk or sales. In comparison, they were seen as a public relations position where all you had to do was smile, answer the phone, check people in, or lunch with clients. Every time you turned around, they were on the radio demanding rooms. I remember thinking, Wow, why don’t you come down and help? I smile at the obvious immaturity on my part from back then, but the point seemed obvious. In time I learned that the front desk also got blamed for every shortcoming of the hotel. It was their fault the property was old, needed renovation, hair was found in the sheets, and the coffee maker in the room did not work. Plus, their position should ensure the internet works at optimal speed without delay. I came to respect the pressures Sales felt as clients squeezed for extra savings, rapidly difficult revenue goals to meet, and the realization that it was never enough. I do remember thinking Sales had it made.

Monday thru Friday working a 9-5 seemed like such a cool life. We never saw them on the weekends or holidays. In fact, when it snowed, they would be the first to say I can’t get in today. Now, please know that I do not feel that way today and understand that each situation is different as it relates to travel in bad conditions. (I promise I am not hating). I am simply being transparent based on someone many years ago who did not have a salary but merely earned an hourly wage. If I didn’t work, I didn’t earn anything. Over time, I began to realize the stress and challenges facing the Sales and Front Desk Team. Sales was and continues to be under intense pressure to put heads in beds. They looked great and sure, it is fun to go to networking events to talk, smile, and laugh. However, there are the unglamorous aspects of finding new business, doing internet prospecting, smiling and dialing, and yes, those cold calls when the last thing someone wants to see is another sales person. So, it appears they have it tough as the rest of us.

As the leader, we have to be mindful of the challenges facing each department, each person, and yes, each situation. There is more to it than just what might appear on the surface. To gain the respect of others, by how we carry ourselves, says a lot and impacts how others may carry themselves. We have influence and it is our responsibility not to take this for granted. Rather we need to set up a culture where everyone feels a part and recognizes their own worth and how their role is critical towards the overall success. Our very existence as leaders is all about how the Sales department brings in business. It is crucial as HR recruits and hires our team members. We cannot overstate the value and importance of the Front Desk, Housekeeping, and yes Maintenance. I don’t know about you but as someone who is not mechanically inclined, I depend a great deal on someone who can fix things and keep everything in good working order. As the leader, it is so important and yet rewarding to bring the sum of these parts into a team unified situation. The fulfillment to be a part of such magic is worthwhile beyond words.

  • So, continue to lead. Your level of influence is critical moving forward.
  • Stop what you are doing when someone wants to talk. You may be the only one they trust.
  • Know what you don’t know and be willing to seek help.
  • Give without seeking anything in return. This is the price of admission to our position.
  • Do not take your position for granted. Even on your worst day, someone would gladly sit in your seat.
  • Keep a cool-headed perspective. Things are never as bad as they seem. (Okay, I know the flood seemed like Noah’s Ark part 2.)
  • Accept that you are here for an important reason. To serve as a mentor, guide, and leader in the lives of important people. Your staff comes from all walks of life yet are under your leadership for a reason and a season.
  • Don’t waste your time dwelling on yesterday or worry about tomorrow. Your present (Now) is a gift and waiting to be unwrapped.

I am good with how I started. It may not have been your path but the entry experience provided me with the necessary insight towards how I approach the job now. I am in better sync with how each department must operate to be successful. When I view the overall operation, I look to walk in someone else’s shoes for a better perspective. Our team is important to the overall success and we must remain cognizant towards what influences their decisions and behaviors. Simply stated, they are either helping or hurting the team. As the leader, we are charged with many things, absolutely. However, our success is driven by the performance of those who report to us. It is truly in our best interest to do everything in our power to guide each one to success. Easier said than done is certainly an understatement. We may not have the structure to speak directly to every person every day. However, consider those who report directly to you. Our influence towards how they approach their staff is paramount and has a lasting impression. If we are lifting them up, chances are better that they are doing the same with their direct reports.

So, I leave you with these thoughts

Keep Selling Sales! Keep booking rooms and enjoy the time off. The reality is that you are engaged in your hotels well beyond the 9-5 Monday thru Friday. Keep selling and place heads in beds so all of us have a job to do.
Keep smiling Front Desk! The first impression is a lasting impression and if we fall short, the competition is cool with being our replacement. This includes the Van Drivers (get them there safely), the Bellmen (Guide them to the right room and make the winning recommendation for dinner (the hotel if applicable)
Keep Fixing Maintenance! You are extending the life of the physical plant and the owner will especially appreciate your work.
Keep serving F&B: You provide the right fuel for the day to properly start and create a masterpiece to create cool vibe at the end of the day.
Keep hiring and Training HR: You find the right team member for the right position at just the right time. Keep us informed and engaged as we work as one towards a common goal.
Keep us Accountable Accounting: The right systems, methods, and executions maintain the positive cash flow. You are the ones who make sure the direct bills remain current!
Keep Cleaning Housekeeping: As described above, I have a special affection for you and what you do. You make sure we have clean rooms even at 11 am for the guest who must check in early. You are the heart of the house and I sincerely appreciate everything you do.
Keep Leading GM’s: There are times the team needs you even if they do not say so. Know when to lead and when to get out of the way so people can do their jobs. You wear a lot of hats but our staff will define how successful we can become! Invest in them and let them know they matter and what they do matters.

Stay encouraged and let’s get on with the job of leading our teams.


Chris Adams
Chris Adams
CHRIS has over 30 years in the Hospitality Industry serving in a number of emerging and diverse roles. His specialty has been in the area of Staff Development, Organizational Enhancements, Task Force Management, and Public Relations. He has worked for several brands such as Sheraton, Hilton, Marriott, Holiday Inn, and several Independents. An advocate for strong community relationships, Adams has served on numerous boards and Non-Profits in an effort to bridge certain gaps towards better understanding and inclusion for all. Additionally, Adams serves as a Legal Task Force Consultant assisting Law Firms in developing case positions via mock juries, selection, and development of media strategies. These efforts have provided further strength towards mediation and successful case resolutions

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  1. Excellent piece, Chris. Like you, I started low in the ranks. In my case, it was as a bellboy at 10 cents/hour. A full-service hotel is extremely complex with many layers of responsibility and is very labor intensive.

    I think every business/industry has a natural stress point between sales and service, but I know of no other business where that is as prominent as in a hotel. It is a natural between prep and service in every restaurant and every banquet operation. It is a natural between sales and the various service departments. Many hotels have a purchasing department and that adds a new layer of stress between them and various service sections such as food prep, stewards, housekeeping, etc. With each department having their own unique responsibilities it is only natural that there will be a conflict between those various interests. Now, compound all that with the fact that each person in each department has a unique personality and a unique set of problems to deal with. It is no wonder that hotel/resort managers feel stressed.

    Ownership interests and franchise interest often place a GM in a crossfire.

    Then toss into that explosive mixture the raw fact that every guest has unique expectations and needs and those are not always the same for a given guest when he/she returns to the hotel for subsequent visits.

    It is a job that will make you or break you. It is not a job for the faint of heart or a person that wants a 40 hour work week with weekends and holidays off. It is not a job that can accommodate “flex-time” or “work from home time” (in fact few jobs in a hotel can).