10 Steps to Being Great Leader


I admit it, I’m a leadership student and junkie. I download and devour books, read blogs, attend seminars and watch TED talks on the topic. Over the years, I’ve been able to study the good, the bad and the crazy of all leadership styles (or lack there-of), and I strive to grow and adapt as a leader. In my various positions as a #girlboss, I’ve never taken the responsibility lightly. As a teacher, I consider my biggest joys and wins to be when I’ve witnessed the blossoming and successes of my team members.

Last fall, I had the honor of meeting and hearing author, theorist and Zen master of leadership Simon Sinek speak at the International Spa Association’s 2016 Conference and Expo on the topic “What makes a great leader?” He suggests it is someone who makes their employees feel secure and draws their staff into a circle of trust. He likened it to being a parent. Parents want their kids to have opportunities, education and discipline them when necessary, all so that they can mature and achieve more than we ever could for ourselves. Great leaders want exactly the same thing.

It sounds splendid in theory, but for those of us who lead, staff development is one area that always nags on our conscience without having adequate time to do it. The daily operations, Instagram account and endless to-do list seem to eat up all the hours. Lest we be reminded, management and leadership are not the same thing.

Being a great leader and building a championship team is the Holy Grail of a successful business. You want employees that are inspired to come to work, that adore their clients and each other and make well thought out suggestions to improve the business. What I’ve learned (and firmly believe) over the years is this: employees, i.e. your team, are the most important asset of your company. Happy employees equals loyal and happy customers. So what’s the roadmap or playbook for getting to this sweet, happy spot?

Beyond regular meetings, one-on-ones and good communication, here are 10 ideas on how to nurture that employee love in 2017.

1. Have a Mission

What’s your why? It is not about what you do, it is about why you do it. You need to have a higher cause or purpose to inspire your team, especially millennials and customers alike. It is about touching and enhancing people’s lives. If we extend that message all the way down to the team members, those decisions of what to do become a lot easier. In the skin and spa industry, we fortunately are in the business of helping others and promoting health through our services. It is easy to focus on the revenue and bookings and lose sight of the why, but passionate visionary leaders guide their teams and the focus back to this mission and the bigger purpose of the work.

2. Cultivate the Culture

Your vision or mission statement and your “golden rules” or spa commandments lay down the foundation for how you want clients to be served and treated, how staff should treat each other and how management treats the staff.

3. Team First

As a leader, your team should come first, not your clients or, heaven forbid, the numbers. You must practice what you preach by demonstrating empathy, transparency and trust to every team member. If you show your genuine support and have their back, they’ll have yours and you will have a team that’s eager to achieve goals and be part of the longer journey.

4. Be Vulnerable

Some leaders have a fierce belief that showing even the slightest hint of vulnerability would cause their teams to see them as “weak.” Wrong. In reality, vulnerability is a strength, and the greatest leaders have the self-awareness to recognize this fact. They also recognize that showing their vulnerability is a sign of courage and strength. You have to be able to connect with your team, reveal who you are or they simply won’t listen or want to follow you.

5. Provide Opportunities

Although it’s easier, safer and faster to sometimes do it yourself, this doesn’t foster employee development or personal growth. Your team needs the chance to try and fail in order to build self-confidence. Helping and guiding your staff to stretch beyond their comfort zone and seeing them flourish is the ultimate of rewards. They will never forget how you helped them to grow, and this is true leadership.

6. Step Away

Empower your team, knowing that you don’t need to be involved in
all the daily minutia because your team is empowered to make their own decisions and spearhead projects. Owners or managers who micromanage
can never take a vacation because they spend 14 hours a day at the office or spa.

7. Coach and Train

Dedicate time to coaching and training; not just on new products and treatments but on customer service and communication skills. Coaching and correction when things go wrong is also critical, but acknowledge the teachable moment and quickly move on. Team outings to strengthen bonds or to gain a fresh slice of inspiration need to be part of the landscape. Most importantly, give employees your time. This demonstrates that you care about them. Cancelling training, meetings and one-on-one’s says you don’t care.

8. Recognize and Reward

Be vigilant in catching people doing the right things and look for different and varied ways of giving praise and recognition. Make it public where possible and deliver with GST (Be Genuine, Specific and Timely). Saying thank you and acknowledging success and an individual’s progress is core to their job satisfaction and your employee retention.

9. Be a Leader Not a Boss

It’s less about what you’re doing and more about who you’re being. It’s how you show up for your people, being available, present, authentic and human.

10. Nurture Your Emotional Intelligence (EI)

EI is widely recognized to be a key element of effective leadership. It is defined as the act of knowing, understanding and responding to emotions, overcoming stress in the moment, and being aware of how your words and actions affect others. The ability to be perceptively in tune with yourself and your emotions, as well as having sound situational awareness can be a powerful tool for leading a team.

Keep Reaching

Smart leaders know what they don’t know. Learning doesn’t stop; continue in this commitment when you’ve become a team leader. Never stop looking for opportunities for your own professional development, and pass on the wisdom you’ve learned to your people. As the leader of your company, it’s your job to inspire and protect the team, protect the culture, and provide a fun and healthy environment for employees to serve clients with the best tools available to do a great job. If you inspire them to reach for the stars, they just might bring you back the moon.

Empower your team, knowing that you don’t need to be involved in all the daily minutia because your team is empowered to make their own decisions and spearhead projects.


Annet King is vice president of global education for Elemis, where she develops the brand’s global education and establishes its Education Hubs and Training Academies across the United States.

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