Leadership mentoring: What’s most important

According to a benchmark study in 2012, U.S. companies alone spend almost US$14 billion annually on leadership development with the cost of customized offerings from top business schools reaching upwards of US$150,000 per person. No one can doubt that it’s important. But molding the next generation of hospitality leaders (keeping this price tag in mind) is far easier said than done.

There are lots of tricks to develop and coach leaders without spending excruciating amounts of money. You start by choosing only those individuals who possess the most essential capabilities for business success such as strong decision making or coaching skills. Then, you have to match specific traits to the current context, ensuring that the cycle of leadership and mentorship is completed in real time with real work.

Beyond this, I sat down with a hospitality consultant, Stephen Darling, who has focused on leadership mentoring to touch on a few more points.

Define leadership mentoring.

Leadership and mentoring are two different things – with leadership being the overall concept and mentoring being a key tactic. It was Plato who first questioned, “What qualities distinguish an individual as a leader?” The salient question is whether leadership is hereditary or learned: the answer most likely being both. The reason we so often combine the two is that we expect the ‘leaders’ in hotels to coach the team on being great leaders – and do so through mentoring.

Where did this concept stem from?

The saying ‘Manage by Walking Around’ is no longer enough. I prefer the concept developed by David Morgenthaler of ‘Manage things, lead people’. Yes, MBWA is part of the process that includes mentoring, effective delegation, development and teamwork, but without active engagement and leadership by the senior individual, it just won’t happen. 

What’s the immediate application for millennials?

I have been approached by an increasing number of recent graduates and recruits – all of whom are disillusioned or disappointed by the current market in finding a position that they feel excited about. Organizations and senior leaders simply don’t make enough time to meet with and listen to the next generation of talent. In turn, they become increasingly detached from what young people want and need, let alone how their organization could benefit from our next tranche of customers. Each time I meet with young people starting out in their careers, I learn something and connect with tomorrow. 

Has leadership mentoring been a part of chain hotel management at the corporate level?

It used to be, but as the economy and markets have materially impacted hospitality organizations, that seems to have gone by the wayside. Succession planning, let alone retention of the best employees, is at risk. For this, I love the saying, “Great companies recruit the best talent, even before its needed.” I consider leadership to be one of the most important disciplines for the success of organizations over the next decade, if not beyond. It needs to be taught in colleges and universities as well as become a part of the framework of training programs for those entering the hospitality industry.