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Doing What's Right: Being an Exceptional Leader

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Lindon E. Saline wrote a fascinating book on how to help community organizations and churches operate more effectively. His writings pertained to the not-for-profit section of our society but being that I am more attuned to the corporate world, I found much of his writings able to cross over and pertain to the profit world alike. In particular, the first chapter on what exceptional leadership looks like; I found a lot of similarities.

Saline talked about becoming an exceptional leader and attributes, attitudes, and skills he considers necessary to be one. He began with knowing your territory. In the book, he states, "They (meaning leaders) have an intimate knowledge of their organization or constituency, how it operates, and its policies and practices." (Page 5). He shares that leaders know the organizations strengths and weakness as well as its competitors and allies. They understand the mission and values of the organization and how their role fits within this organization.

Within hospitality, I have found that many hotels do not understand this and often their leaders do not understand how important it is to know their territory. I have had the privilege in attending much training for new general managers and it is taught how to find out about territories, but seldom do general managers utilize these tools to be prepared for when they return back to their individual properties. This leads to ineffective leadership within the hotel and often results in a lack of revenue for the property.

I have found that my success has depended on my ability to understand my territory. This does not only mean the local area but also my role within an organization. On several different occasions, I have taken employment with already established companies that have a staff already in place. It takes time to figure out who the supervisors are and who are the natural leaders. Presently, in my new position as the general manager of the Comfort Suites Canal Park in Duluth, MN I am figuring out how the organization is set up within the Grandma's Corporation. I have people that take direct from me and yet I am not their boss. Understanding my territory has meant learning how to negotiate these waters without stepping on toes. The local area is much vaster than I have experienced in the past and so I have found that I must take the time to analyze who my competition is and who are my allies within the industry. My leadership abilities become more effective when I understand this and then I can lead my organization in confidence knowing that I truly understand my territory.

Saline's next point in being an exceptional leader is having charisma. Charisma is one of those qualities in humans that attract others to themselves and influence them to go in the direction of the one having the charisma. Saline states that people with charisma can articulate clearly and breathe life into a vision. They are full of energy, optimism, and confidence without being arrogant and cocky. They have the ability to follow through on task and meet schedules in spite of all the obstacles they may encounter. I particularly like his statement, "Exceptional leaders regard leadership not in terms of power but as an opportunity for service to their co-workers and constituency. They develop individuals and build teams by serving people rather than by using them.

Employees within a hotel organization seldom hear about their leaders serving them. Often front line employees feel stepped on and not heard when it comes to their positions. These employees believe that their managers expect these individuals to just do their jobs, not complain, and be efficient in what they do. However, hospitality is all about service and the industry desperately needs people with charisma that not only serve the guests but also each other. It is a proven fact that often employees have higher levels of job satisfaction when they feel they are appreciated and part of a viable organization. General Managers who posses charisma and work to serve their employees will find greater success in their leadership than those who only seek to serve themselves.

Within my tenure as a general manager, I have experienced being a leader without charisma and being a successful leader in having it. It takes a concerted effort to not be selfish and to be thinking of building the individual and team. Often general managers are dealing with people that do not relate to a service minded leader and make it difficult to be inspired. All my confidence, energy, and efforts do not always lead to success but when I play the game, the odds are that I will at least make a difference. Charisma is important and having a goal of becoming more charismatic will certainly lead me in the right direction.

Having well developed values and goals are the next attributes of being an exceptional leader in Saline's book. He shares that great leaders have values that are common to all exceptional leaders. They include integrity, trustworthiness, loyalty and responsibility. These values are learned through experiences and practices



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