Women as leaders in lodging

Editor Colleen Isherwood discusses feminine leadership in the accommodations sector: empathy, honesty and “a pinch of bitch.”

Women’s Leadership Forum panel: left to right, Lori Andrew, Nita Patel, Amy Vaxman and Natalee Bloss.

Women’s Leadership Forum panel: left to right, Lori Andrew, Nita Patel, Amy Vaxman and Natalee Bloss.

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By Colleen Isherwood, editor

The breakout room at the Vantage Hospitality Conference in Las Vegas was filled with women—no men allowed, not even a photographer! The purpose of this closed-door session was to identify the leadership qualities specific to women in the hospitality industry.

Lori Andrew, general manager of Canadas Best Value Inn Calgary started the discussion. “The important female [leadership] traits are patience and empathy. With the new generation, we want staff to engage. That’s where the Millennials are going. You have to put your character out there­—with a pinch of bitch! Show respect and respect comes back to you.”

Nita Patel, a hotelier from Collinsville, IL, had a list of desirable traits: empathy, consistency, honesty, caring, flexibility, direction and being a good mentor among them. “Be firm in your rules and then follow through. Punish in private and praise in public,” she added.

Another hotelier took mentoring to a different level, by working with an employee who just got out of jail and had been into drugs for eight years.

“That employee has been with us six months, is one of my best workers—and has stayed off drugs,” she said.

“If [the crime] wasn’t violent and wasn’t stealing, why wouldn’t I consider giving them a second chance?” said panel moderator Rita Weber, Vantage’s director of human resources and training.

Another key is “to wish them well always,” according to another hotelier. “If they get a better job, have them leave on a positive note, keep the relationship secure. They may still come back for mentoring. What is the point of being nasty or upset?”

While most delegates mentioned honesty as being important, they noted that “honesty does not necessarily mean full disclosure.”

Weber addressed the awkward situation where a leader who knows that certain jobs will be cut is approached by someone whose job is going to be eliminated. In her example, the person was also going through a messy divorce. “I told him that there will be changes, and that I personally am not doing anything that will add to my financial issues,” she said.

Natalee Bloss, representing the Millennials, is a hospitality student at University of Nevada Las Vegas, who recently worked as an intern at that city’s Hard Rock Hotel. “At Hard Rock, everyone has access to the leader—they feel they can speak their mind and say what they feel is important,” she said.