ISPA Conference & Expo
ISPA Conference & Expo
ISPA Conference & Expo

Jeremy McCarthy

Learning to lead

The most important thing mentees need to learn is the hardest thing to teach – and that’s leadership, says Jeremy McCarthy

One of the most rewarding parts of being older and a bit more established in my career is the opportunity to mentor others. In the past few years, I've taken on a number of mentees, some of whom I’ve coached from afar and others whom I’ve taken under my wing, working closely with them for an extended period.

Mentoring is not easy. It’s one thing to become successful in your own career, but to package and convey a lifetime of learning, experiences and wisdom into some usable nugget that can actually make a meaningful impact on someone’s life and career is its own art form and not one that I’ve mastered.

I often think the most important thing my mentees need to learn is the hardest thing for me to teach: leadership. People who are juniors in their careers today have access to incredible resources that I never had. They can easily learn about the industry by taking courses, reading blogs, watching YouTube videos, etc. They can learn how to read a P&L, how to write an SOP or how to give good customer service. But leadership is one of the most essential skills for a successful career and it’s hard to learn, hard to teach and not easily replaced by technology.

Trial and error
When I think about how I learned leadership, the top answer that comes to mind is trial and error. I made lots of mistakes. They didn’t feel good. I made adjustments. Often, I overcorrected and made more mistakes. And gradually, over time, I established my own leadership style. But I never finished learning how to be a leader. I’m still learning from my mistakes to this day.

Role models
The second way I learned is by working with people I admired. Inspiring leaders were role models, who pushed me to be the best I could and also gave me a template for what being a good leader looks like. I’ve worked with some amazing people and my approach to leadership is shaped by those who went before.

Learning by dislike
The third way I learned is by working with people I didn’t like. The micromanagers, the tyrants and the soulless number crunchers. They were role models too, teaching me what didn’t work and what I didn’t want to become.

The leadership wisdom from these channels is hard-won. They take time and effort and more than a few lumps along the way. Sure, as a mentor I can try to help my mentees bypass some of the pain and duration necessary to learn these skills. I can try to bottle up the lessons I’ve learned into an easily digestible format, but they’ll sound like meaningless platitudes.

It’s not until the mentee tries them out in a real situation that they can see whether it fits them or not. The techniques that work are the ones that come from the heart of the leader. Authenticity is more important than the actions themselves.

So my advice to those who are early in their careers is simple: step up, take control and make decisions. Make decisions and mistakes. You won’t make good decisions at first. Making good decisions requires wisdom. Wisdom comes from experience. And experience comes from making bad decisions. So make bad decisions. Own your mistakes and learn from them. And maybe ... just maybe ... become a leader along the way.

Jeremy McCarthy has worked in the spa industry for 34 years. As group director of spa and wellness for Mandarin Oriental, he oversees spa, wellness and leisure operations at 35 luxury hotels globally. Contact him with your views on Twitter @jeremymcc

company profile
Company profile: Alliance Leisure
The company’s core business is the provision of facility development and support for local authorities, educational establishments and leisure trusts that want to improve or expand the leisure products and services they offer.
Try cladmag for free!
Sign up with CLAD to receive our regular ezine, instant news alerts, free digital subscriptions to CLADweek, CLADmag and CLADbook and to request a free sample of the next issue of CLADmag.
sign up
The Sangha Retreat was built on the shores of Yangcheng Lake in China’s Jiangsu Province
"The key to a happy and successful society is a philosophy that places wellness at the heart of everything"

Calvin Tsao and brother Frederick are reviving the Chinese culture of physical and mental wellbeing with their Octave Living development company, as Christopher DeWolf discovers

BIG’s design for Google’s Charleston East Campus aims to foster a sense of community
Daniel Sundlin
"What defines BIG’s style of visual communication is that our diagrams clearly capture the essence of our projects, meaning that it’s very easy for people who don’t know our projects well to understand them."

The vision for Google's UK and US HQs

At night the Tucheng Sports Centre in Taipei is lit up internally, giving it a translucent quality
"Farrells delivered a streamlined, zinc-clad structure that looks like the snout of a dolphin when viewed from one of the many high-rise apartment towers that overlook it"

Why shouldn’t sports facilities be beautiful? Across Asia, architects are creating landmark buildings for the public, discovers Christopher de Wolf

Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
To advertise in our catalogue gallery: call +44(0)1462 431385
Moxy is a fun brand designed for Millennial travellers
"Millennials are pushing us architects to design hotels with distinct personalities"

Sameness is out, authenticity is in when it comes to designing for millennials says Greg Keffer

Visual references to the natural world are present in the building’s exterior and its fluid, interior
Chinese architect Ma Yansong
"We as humans can learn from nature and then move beyond it"

The founder of MAD on nature and urbanism, the Harbin Opera House and battling conservatism

Lund has worked as a designer for Soho House since 2014. She co-led the design of The Ned
"My favourite part of the building is the original bank vault, in the belly of the building. It once stored gold bullion deposits of £335m"

On the challenges of creating The Ned

Champalimaud designed all of the hotel’s interiors
Bakos joined Champalimaud in December 2012. He previously worked for the Rockwell Group
"Construction is one of the largest generators of landfill waste, so it is important to create spaces that transcend trends"

It’s time for a new approach to sustainability, argues Champalimaud’s managing director

The interiors are by Hong Kong-based practice CCD with input from Jochman
Martin Jochman founded JADE+QA in 2013. He formerly worked for Atkins
"We didn’t want to put in any gimmicks. We wanted to create a building that’s inherently sustainable through passive sustainability"

When Martin Jochman set out to transform an old quarry into a luxury hotel, he faced some serious challenges

cladkit product news
Alberto Apostoli and Newform collaborate to launch the A.Zeta showerhead
The showerhead offers two modes; rainfall or waterfall
Megan Whitby
Italian architect Alberto Apostoli has renewed his partnership with Newform – an Italian wellness company – and designed A.Zeta. A.Zeta ...
Eco Resort Network conference to convene in Mauritius this May
The event will be hosted in the Mauritius in 2024
Megan Whitby
Hospitality industry event Eco Resort Network is set to take place at the Ravenala Attitude Hotel, Turtle Bay, Mauritius, from ...
Siminetti unveils iridescent decorative panelling range inspired by plants
The Clematis design
Megan Whitby
The Botanicals is Siminetti’s newest Mother of Pearl decorative panelling collection, inspired by the distinctive patterns found in botany and ...
cladkit product news
Mather & Co and ITV unite to create Coronation Street Experience
Mather & Co has transformed the visitor centre into the ultimate haven for ardent Coronation Street viewers
Magali Robathan
Experience designers, Mather & Co, have orchestrated a remarkable collaboration with ITV to unveil the new Coronation Street Experience, a ...
Alberto Apostoli designs tech-forward Wellness Therapy furniture collection for Varaschin
The furniture collection draws on absolute geometries, pure lines, neutral colours and strong references to nature
Megan Whitby
Furniture manufacturer Varaschin has unveiled the new Wellness Therapy range, designed by Italian spa and wellness architect and designer Alberto ...
Koto Design introduces wood-fired hot tub
Koto is known for crafting modular, energy-neutral cabins and homes
Katie Barnes
A striking wood-fired hot tub has been unveiled by Koto, an architecture and design studio which has a passion for ...
cladkit product news
Eden project uses drones to spell out climate change warning
Magali Robathan
Almost 300 drones were used to signal an environmental message above the Eden Project’s biomes, during the UN Climate Change ...
Jaffe Holden helps bring Academy Museum of Motion Pictures alive
Jaffe Holden provided architectural acoustics for the Academy Museum
Magali Robathan
Acoustical consulting firm Jaffe Holden provided architectural acoustics and audio/video design services for the recently opened Academy Museum of Motion ...
Codelocks develops new glass door smart lock
The new lock model allows facilities and building managers to create and manage access via an app or online portal
Megan Whitby
Codelocks has launched its first glass door smart lock to bring intelligent access control to modern spa, leisure, fitness and ...
ISPA Conference & Expo
ISPA Conference & Expo