Five Must-Have Qualities for Hospitality Leaders – Q&A on MBA in Hospitality
Jacqueline Volkart already had an illustrious career in hospitality when she decided to enter Glion’s MBA in Hospitality and Service Industries Management program online, in 2010.
Born in Switzerland, Jacqueline received her B.S. in International Hospitality Management from Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne in 1986. She has since held managerial positions at eight major hotels in three countries. After working for three years as general manager (GM) of The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan in Puerto Rico, she served six years as general manager of The Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove, Miami. Now she has just transferred back to the San Juan hotel to serve as its GM. Glion in Brief interviewed Jacqueline when she started in her current role.
What made you decide to earn your MBA in Hospitality and Service Industries Management?
JV: Learning is never final. I wanted to modernize my thinking about hospitality—not to get stuck in one way of thinking or be “company blind.” I wanted to build relationships with other professionals around the world, and develop a new, more global perspective.
Why did you choose Glion’s MBA?
JV: In 2010, I was GM of The Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove, Miami, when I saw an ad on eHotelier for the Glion Online MBA. My director of finance in San Juan had earned his MBA online, so I suppose I wanted to be like him.
I received three e-mails from the school. The first and second time I put it off on the “one day maybe” list. The third time, I signed up and was enrolled within a week. I was one of the program’s first students—maybe number two.
Living in Miami, there are many hospitality schools where I could have studied on campus. But I couldn’t give up every weekend, for example. Studying online is fabulous—there is great flexibility. I am an evening person. I would study Saturday mornings, and then I could assist my team with weddings and everything a GM is expected to do. You can complete the program at your own pace—take a break if you get promoted or if you get relocated across continents, for example.
How was your experience with the MBA program?
JV: The Glion Online MBA is a fantastic program for hospitality professionals. Our class was very close and caring. We all agreed that we built deeper relationships with each other than if we had gone to school in person together. There was no pressure—you can be yourself. You share maybe more things than you would in person. We motivated each other. If someone didn’t post, we’d ask, “Are you okay”?
And my classmates had at least 10 to 15 years of hospitality experience, so we could learn from each other’s experience. If you just go from a BA straight to an MBA, it’s not as valuable for you, and you don’t have that experience to share with your fellow students.
We had our graduation in Switzerland. It was so nice to finally meet everyone. We felt really connected, and we still stay in touch. At our graduation [for both the online and on-campus programs], I was the industry speaker, and I used my thesis to give advice to my fellow graduates.
Tell us about your thesis (also called the “Applied Business Project”).
JV: My thesis was about components of leadership behavior—what makes emerging leaders stand out. I interviewed high-level professionals and identified qualities that help them succeed. I created a pyramid that is built on five important steps for career advancement (see sidebar). I also identified qualities that can destroy a career, such as ethical problems. Treating other people unkindly doesn’t get results. You have to work through people, and then they will follow you.
Were you able to apply what you learned in the MBA in Hospitality to your role as GM?
JV: I could absolutely apply it. I look for these components of leadership behavior when I am hiring new staff members. With the Glion Online MBA, anything you learn you can immediately apply to your job. I received many fantastic ideas from my classmates that I applied.
Is having an MBA opening any different doors for you?
JV: When I interviewed with the owner of The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan, he was impressed that I had just received my MBA. It’s highly regarded to continue your education and invest in knowledge.
What does it take to be GM of a luxury hotel?
JV: It takes passion, the desire to be a role model, and the desire to teach. Even if it might be complicated and stressful sometimes, you can’t show that. You need to talk to guests and employees and constantly inspire others to advance or to wish to have your job. Make it fun and be proud for the organization you work for.
Five Qualities of a Hospitality Leader
- Knowing self—Acknowledge your strengths, weaknesses, and core values. Practice hands-on leadership and don’t pretend you know it all.
- Knowing how—Continuously learn and grow by furthering your education. Be ready to adapt to new environments, companies, and local cultures, and embrace diversity.
- Knowing who—Continue to network and build relationships wherever you are. Cultivate your personal image and reputation.
- Knowing why—Why do you love our profession? What are your motivations and aspirations? Share your dreams with your leaders.
- Knowing when and where—Know when you’re ready to move. Don’t just jump from one hotel to another. It looks good to be promoted within the same hotel at least once.