The New-Age Boss: Embracing change and empowering teams is key to success

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3 min read

JOHANNESBURG – Good bosses matter—now more than ever. The travel industry had to really hustle and adapt over the past couple of years, way more than any other sector. Those leading in travel, like Bonnie Smith, GM Corporate Traveller, had to step up and guide their teams through this crazy time.

And like travel has been changed forever, so have the skills needed to be a leader in the ‘new’ world, she says. The switch? What we’ve seen is a rise in ‘creative leadership’ and a decrease in ‘reactive leadership’, she says.

We take a look at some of the critical skills that leaders need now and what it means to be a women leader in 2023 and beyond, according to Smith.

Essential leadership skill #1: Embracing diversity and inclusion

Smith emphasises that having a team with people from different backgrounds, ages, and ethnicities is essential because it brings fresh perspectives and better ways to solve problems. “If leaders make sure everyone feels welcome and valued, they’ll be more successful,” she says. Leaders should support gender equality and mentor women to help them succeed, she continues.

“It’s about creating a supportive atmosphere for your team, where they can learn and improve together. You want everyone to feel empowered to speak up and share their thoughts or ideas without fear of judgment. This helps each team member bring their best self to work and feel like they belong and are valued as part of the team,” says Smith.

To further promote diversity and inclusion, Smith says leaders can:

  • Establish an inclusive culture from the top, where diverse voices are valued.
  • Practice diverse hiring and provide equal opportunities for candidates from different backgrounds.
  • Offer training to raise awareness of biases and promote understanding among employees.
  • Involve diverse perspectives in decision-making for better outcomes.
  • Hold leaders and employees accountable for promoting diversity and inclusion.
  • Implement flexible policies to accommodate diverse needs, like remote work or parental leave.
  • Seek out diverse suppliers and vendors for the organisation.
  • Measure progress and regularly assess diversity and inclusion efforts.
  • Communicate the organisation’s commitment to diversity openly and involve employees in shaping the strategy.

Essential leadership skill #2: Adaptability and flexibility

The pandemic disrupted traditional work dynamics, introducing the concept of “workation” – a blend of work and personal life to find balance and efficiency. Leaders had to quickly find ways to keep their teams connected and happy while they work from different places.

“In the travel industry, women leaders stand out for their adaptability and resilience when dealing with challenges. They have a keen understanding of how the industry changes and approach problems with a positive and proactive attitude,” Smith explains.

Essential leadership skill #3: Empathy and emotional intelligence

In the face of the recent upheaval, leaders had to develop a deeper sense of empathy and emotional intelligence too, says Smith.

She believes women in leadership positions can draw on these attributes and promote and support initiatives that help employees balance their work and personal lives – because many know the struggles of juggling work and personal responsibilities. One area they can effect change? They can work towards creating a flexible and healthy work environment, says Smith.

“The journey through the pandemic has truly reshaped the fabric of leadership, requiring adaptability and a deeper understanding of human dynamics. To succeed in this new reality, leaders have to be good at handling change, bringing their teams together, and being emotionally aware,” says Smith. 

Leadership and business travel: The role of female-friendly travel policies

Smith emphasises that considering the needs of female business travellers is also vital in the context of leadership. “Effective leaders understand the human elements of work and travel, prioritise well-being and champion flexibility and trust,” says Smith.

In light of this, Smith advocates for a travel policy that offers flexibility and support, especially for women who may have additional responsibilities like single parenting. “A travel policy should allow them time to prepare for their trips and plan their work-life balance effectively,” she concludes.

For more information about Corporate Traveller, or to interview Corporate Traveller South Africa GM Bonnie Smith, call Dorine Reinstein on 083 278 8994 or email