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5 Qualities that Make a Great Leader in the Event Industry

The event industry is built upon the shoulders of great leaders all around the world and all across specialties. Even veterans in our lives can think back to earlier stages of their careers and pinpoint a leader who made a difference in their lives. While we often think of a leader as someone who is “great at what they do,” it requires so much more than raw talent. Just because an industry pro can take a jaw-dropping photo or produce an awe-inspiring bouquet doesn’t mean they are equipped to lead a team to success.

So, what does it take to be an effective leader besides mastering your trade? The qualities below are known as “soft skills,” but they do not come naturally to most despite the name. Leadership takes practice, and, honestly, it also involves learning from mistakes.

Don’t expect to become the most influential trailblazer overnight. But, by cultivating these five qualities, you will set yourself up to become the dynamic leader the industry needs!

After 2020, we can all agree that resilience is a must for any business owner — especially if you’re leading a team or a community. When other people are looking to you for support, you need to be able to show up for them! Resilience doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to feel emotional or react to certain situations. I’m sure we all shed a few tears over the pandemic.

Rather, resilience is about the commitment to moving forward. It’s going through business with a “hell or high water” mindset, ready to tackle whatever comes your way. It’s about giving yourself a moment to feel it all, then buckling up and pushing forward. The industry waits for no one, so you need to keep showing up to make an impact.

Another valuable lesson from 2020 is the importance of flexibility. Coming from someone who launched a software company right before the pandemic, being flexible is the only way to run a business. Rigid leaders are close-minded and stuck in their ways, which ultimately spills over onto their team and colleagues. But, when you’re flexible, you’re ready to roll with the punches — even if you don’t know what comes next.

Flexibility is what allowed our business to transition to a fully remote situation as seamlessly as possible. It allowed us to keep our team staffed and actually see growth during a pandemic. The same way catering companies started offering curbside delivery and planners began selling micro-weddings, flexibility keeps you agile and quick on your feet so you can be ready to find success around every corner.

Now, this is an easy one. The events industry is filled with creatives! After all, our businesses are built on it. Stationery design, floral design, photography — it all requires us to be creative and think outside of the box. It’s the reason there are so many awesome digital solutions in the event industry, from project management dashboards to CRMs built specifically for event pros.

When we see a problem, we can’t help but think about how we can fix it. (It’s actually how our company was born!) At an event, it allows us to think on our feet and keep our clients’ happy no matter what. But, as a leader, creativity opens us up to new ideas and channels for sharing our knowledge and expertise. It’s why virtual speaking was at an all-time high during the pandemic, it’s why we hopped on Clubhouse right out the gates, and it’s why education and thought leadership is such a major component of our industry. Creativity changes the world.

A great leader is also someone who will speak their mind. Transparency tells your employees, your colleagues, and your followers that you are trustworthy and authentic. There is no concern about smoke and mirrors — you will always be open and honest, even if what you have to say isn’t quite positive. There is no tiptoeing around giving constructive criticism or hiding one’s true intentions for a new project.

When you are honest and true to your word, you will earn the trust and respect of your community. Your transparency gives credence to your knowledge, allowing you to become an established thought leader in the industry. Nobody cares to hear from someone with questionable intentions!

At the end of the day, we are fortunate to be part of a kind and supportive community. Above all else, great leaders are people who give more than they receive. Much like we saw top catering companies donate meals to hospitals and homeless communities throughout the pandemic,  giving is in our nature.

A well-respected leader gives to their team in the form of good pay, mentorship, and educational opportunity. They give to the industry through valuable resources to advance the knowledge base. They donate time, money, and services to their community for charitable causes. A leader gives because they live in an abundance mindset rather than a scarcity mindset — they know that their contributions do not diminish what they have but rather add to it with experience, rapport, and positivity.

Here’s the best part: Anyone can become a great leader! You don’t need to get a degree or build a team of 100 to step into that role. All you need is a purpose and the intention to hone these five skills so you can provide value to your community.

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Elizabeth Sheils is the co-founder of Rock Paper Coin, the first software platform to bring together wedding planners, couples, and vendors into one system for managing and paying contracts and invoices. Elizabeth is also a lead wedding planner with award-winning firm Bridal Bliss, where she manages the Seattle team. She was recently recognized by Special Events in its Top 25 Event Pros to Watch series.

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