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The Ten Essential Traits of a Great General Manager

By Larry Mogelonsky, MBA, P. Eng.
December 2012

Of all the positions in hospitality, none is more revered or desired than that of General Manager. When you reach this level, you are at the pinnacle of our profession, in effect, the proverbial “captain” of the ship!

The road to GM-ship can be long and arduous. There are many differing career paths that will lead to the position, thus, there is no single guaranteed road to success. In my numerous communications with GMs throughout my career, however, I’ve come to appreciate some of the essential traits that epitomize excellence. Here is my own personal list. Note the focus on the “soft side” of the business:

  1. Care. Care for their property. Care for their guests. Care for their employees. Watch a GM stoop down to quickly pick up a soiled tissue on the floor of an elevator. Why? Their hotel is their home.

  2. Time. GMs seem to have endless time for their guests, employees, meetings and yes, their owners too. If you’re thinking the job is 9 to 5, forget it. Try a 12-hour day, 6 or more days per week.

  3. Acquired Knowledge and a Great Memory. How is it that a GM knows so much? From F&B to Housekeeping; from capital cost analyses to OSHA specifications; not to mention remembering the names of hundreds of past guests.

  4. A Love of People. This is a people job. Every GM I know relishes the opportunity to be with people. The perfect host, the best GM makes everyone feel comfortable around them. And a great GM has a keen ability to build an incredibly successful team and get the most out of them.

  5. Patience. No plan survives contact with the enemy intact. Great GMs seem to understand this, being able to “pivot” on a dime, to recast their objectives based upon the shifting sands of the job.

  6. A Keen Sense of Humor. Let’s face it. Not everything works the way one expects. Being able to joke when all seems lost is an incredible life skill.

  7. The Ability to Never Give Up. Imagine having to grow ADR, REVPAR and occupancy every year. It’s impossible. Yet somehow, GMs continue to stay motivated to climb the mountain again and again.

  8. A Sense of Fair Play. I have never seen a Great GM disparage a competitor, let alone do anything illegal or immoral. GMs are tough competitors, but follow an exceptionally strong moral code. They also respect their suppliers, and are tough bargainers, but fair.

  9. Energy. How do you motivate your early shift staff at 6:30AM, run a planning committee meeting all morning, lunch with key clients, join an afternoon FAM, attend a marketing presentation, smile through the cocktail hour manager’s reception, then drop in on an evening wedding rehearsal? I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

  10. Love of the Job. GMs love their job. There is nothing on earth they would rather do. This feeling permeates their work. You can feel it. After all, if you love what you do, then it doesn’t feel like work.

Larry Mogelonsky, a Cayuga Member and Associate with G7 Hospitality Group, holds a Bachelor degree in Civil Engineering, and an MBA from McMaster University. His first nine years of business experience were in packaged goods marketing in progressive assignments with Procter & Gamble and Pepsico Foods. His next assignment involved seven years as the advertising agency for Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. For the past 21 years, Larry has been president of LMA Communications Inc., a Toronto-based communications agency specializing in solutions for hospitality and tourism, and focusing on the independent luxury hotel segment. He brings a strategy-based, consumer-oriented approach to hotel marketing that reflects his multi-disciplined background.

Reprinted with permission from Cayuga Hospitality Review.  All rights reserved.


Cayuga Hospitality Advisors

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Also See: 'It's Not Easy Being Green' / Hans Pfister / September 2012

The E's of Management: Twelve Must-Have Attributes for Good Managers / William P. Fisher. Ph.D. / August 2012

How to Lose Friends (Employees) and Repulse People (Everyone Else) / William P. Fisher. Ph.D. / March 2012

Motivators: Understanding Conditions that Affect Human Behavior - Tools for Personnel Management / William P. Fisher. Ph.D. / August 2011

Six Ways to Identify a Company in Decline; Wise business lessons learned from a social psychologist - not a financial analyst / William P. Fisher. Ph.D. / April 2011

Do You Think Like a Leader or a Manager? / William P. Fisher. Ph.D. / October 2009

A Wake Up Call, The Shadow of 9/11: Terrorism and Premises Liability for Hotels / Carroll Dubuc / September 2009

You Need to Reset Your Exit Strategy / Jim Burr / September 2009

The Electronic Guestroom / Jules A. Sieburgh / September 2009

LEADERSHIP: The Basis for Management / William P. Fisher Ph.D. / September 2009

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