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The Game-Changing GM's & CEO's

Updated: Nov 26, 2019

Rob Arnold

As I reflect on 10 years of working with a multitude of different general managers and CEO's in the hospitality and retail space, there are 4 traits or common-threads that have set apart the game-changers from the position-holders. Here they are in no particular order:

1. Are unbelievably Responsive

Arguably one of the most distinguishing attributes of the leaders who make real change is the realisation of how important it is to get back to people. Coupled with this is the trait of being decisive. Whether it is getting back to a staff member, board member or even supplier, the game-changers are consistently responsive because they realise what a stalling effect not getting back to people has on the overall productivity of the business. Those that live by the line, "I'm just swamped at the moment," usually are the least productive of the lot. In my experience, the most dynamic GM's and CEO's are most responsive.

2. Enjoy being Proven Wrong

There are a lot of GM's and CEO's who preach to be all about engaging with staff to gain necessary customer and staff insights but in reality, inherently believe they know best. In my experience, the best in the game use every opportunity to establish the truth about their operation and customer expectations as opposed to the answer that suits their narrative. The greats do less talking and more listening because there is no burning desire to always be heard. The more the leader listens, the more they empower their teams and the more their teams feel a sense of purpose and place.

3. Drive Adaptation in the Organisation

We as human beings are typically not well suited to change. While this may be somewhat of a generalisation, history does suggest that fewer of us run towards change than those who run in the other direction. It is, therefore, a critical deliverable for the GM or CEO to be able to drive the necessary adaptations in the business. My observations suggest that the average leader will implement something but not have the discipline or drive to see it through and then blame market conditions, lack of board support, staff or even suppliers before they look inward. The individuals that I have learnt from the most are those who lead the charge long after it stopped being the flavour of the month.

4. See the Bigger Picture and use Foresight

There's an old adage that says, "We as humans stick to what we know." From time to time I see a GM/CEO who comes from a certain background or has certain experience which is the only perspective they take into consideration as the organisational leader. This is not to say that this perspective has no value but a significant attribute of the leader is to be able to take a few steps away from the operation and see the organisation (and customer value proposition) in an objective light. The best leaders I've been fortunate enough to work with, ensure they have the necessary mechanisms in place to always be able to gain an objective view on customer and employee sentiment. These individuals are also sufficiently removed from the day to day operation to be able to think 5 or 10 steps ahead.

RCA develops & facilitates tailored training & measurement programmes with the objective of optimising the customer value proposition. To find out more, email

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