Four Seasons Hotel Seoul’s General Manager, Alejandro Bernabé Navarro, believes finding your passion is the first step to becoming a successful leader.
Twenty years ago Alejandro Bernabé Navarro fell in awe with the hospitality industry, traveling to far-flung locales like South Africa and Sri Lanka as a Food & Beverage trainee. Fast forward to today, he is now a highly respected General Manager at Four Seasons Hotel Seoul.
In this interview, Alejandro offers some seasoned advice on what it takes to hold a successful leadership role in the hospitality industry.
How has your finance background influenced your journey in hospitality?
When I entered hospitality, I never thought that I’d use my finance background anymore. Then I realised that at the end of the day, hospitality is like any other business and you need to understand where the money is coming from, and where the expenses are focused. This skill is extremely helpful when dealing with holding companies and corporations.
Can you describe your role as General Manager at Four Seasons Hotel Seoul?
My role is to make sure that the people on my team at the hotel can do their job to the best of their abilities. My job is to make decisions and translate the corporate strategy of Four Seasons to make our property successful.
My role is to make sure that the people on my team at the hotel can do their job to the best of their abilities.
How does having a background in Food & Beverage help in your role as a General Manager?
Food & Beverage is an extremely dynamic discipline. The good thing about having experience in in this area is that you are required to deal with people, numbers, guests and complex situations. It really allows you to work with many departments and to be both connected with the guests as well as connected with the staff and connected with the business. So it’s a very holistic discipline.
In your opinion, what are some qualities a good hospitality leader should possess?
Perhaps the most important thing is to be willing to work hard.
I believe it’s very important to have humility, extremely high ethical values as well as creativity, flexibility and good listening skills. Be passionate about what you like to do. Perhaps the most important thing is to be willing to work hard.
What’s your advice to young hotel professionals who wish to become a General Manager eventually?
It doesn’t matter which discipline you come from. Whether you have a background in Food & Beverage, finance, or sales and marketing, the important thing is to develop your leadership skills. If you are a natural leader and people respect you, and you can communicate well with people, you will be successful. My advice to anybody is to have curiosity.
How do you think someone can develop leadership skills?
It is important to have a positive attitude. I think that we already have enough problems in the world so I like to work with people who are happy; people who bring solutions and opportunities and not problems to the table. Whatever happens, it’s very important that you show respect. You should understand that without everybody else in the team, you couldn’t succeed.
Working in hospitality is not a one-man show; it is a team effort. It is important for a leader to be willing to accept that people make mistakes, reflect on it and move on.
Working in hospitality is not a one-man show; it is a team effort.
Don’t bring any ego into the picture. Remember, there’s always something that you can learn. There’s something somebody else can do better than you and you can learn from that situation.
What to you, is the most rewarding thing about working as a hospitality professional?
There are many things. I love to develop people. I love to see a customer who is happy. I like to see events that become successful. The small details make me satisfied as well. For instance, I like to go into a room and see how we set up the amenities. All of these are what makes my job interesting.
What would you like to teach in a Swiss hotel school if given the chance?
I would love to teach something to do with Food & Beverage or with leadership skills. I would love to share my experience and try to pass a little bit of my passion and to give back what the industry has given to me.
Alejandro Bernabé Navarro graduated from Hotel Institute Montreux in 1995 with a diploma in Hotel Management.