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7 Questions on Leadership with Tass Messinis

Name: Tass Messinis

Title: Chief Operating Officer

Organisation: Locomote

Tass has over 30 years’ experience as a leader and senior executive throughout Asia Pacific and the Middle East within corporate travel services, card & payment services, and technology start-ups. His senior executive roles within the corporate travel industry include Managing Director - BCD Travel Australia, VP Global Sales APAC - American Express, and General Manager – Locomote.

Currently serving chairperson of Association Travel Management Companies (ATMC), Member of the Australian Institute Company Directors (MAIDC), previously served as a board member of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA), Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) and CT Partners Australia.

Why: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Tass's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

As a leader, one of the most challenging aspects I have found is striking the right balance between setting a clear vision and empowering my team to contribute their ideas and innovations. It can be difficult to find the middle ground between providing guidance and direction while also fostering a sense of autonomy and ownership among team members.

Additionally, navigating and managing conflicts within the team has proven to be quite challenging. Dealing with diverse personalities, opinions, and conflicts of interest can be complex and require delicate handling to maintain a harmonious and productive environment.

Lastly, staying adaptable and leading through change is another significant challenge. In today's fast-paced world, organisations must continually evolve and adapt to stay relevant. As a leader, guiding my team through changes and uncertainties requires flexibility, effective communication, and the ability to overcome resistance to change.

Overall, being a leader presents a unique set of challenges, and overcoming them requires a combination of strategic thinking, effective communication, emotional intelligence, and a genuine concern for the well-being and growth of the team.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I became a leader through a combination of hard work, determination, and a passion for what I do. I started my journey in sales, which laid a strong foundation for my leadership abilities. I continuously sought opportunities to learn and grow, seeking out mentors and taking on challenging projects that allowed me to develop my leadership skills. I focused on building strong relationships with my team members, fostering an environment of trust and collaboration. Some would say that leadership is an innate quality, but like any natural gift you need to adapt and evolve. I was able to earn the respect and trust of my colleagues and superiors, eventually leading to positions of leadership. It is an ongoing journey, and I continue to learn and adapt to new situations to lead effectively. I’m always reminded of the quote by John Quincy Adams; “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I believe in prioritising my time and organising my workdays in a way that maximises productivity and fosters health and well-being. This involves a 2km walk with my Wife Denise and our dog Louis, followed by a Yoga session and a healthy breakfast.

Once I am ready for the day, I typically dedicate the first part of my morning to planning and goal setting. I review my schedule, prioritise tasks, and set realistic objectives for the day. This helps me stay focused and ensures that I am working towards meaningful outcomes.

Throughout the day, I strive to maintain a balance between individual work, collaboration with team members, and necessary meetings. I believe in open communication and make an effort to be accessible to my team, providing support and guidance whenever needed.

To maintain productivity, I break my work into manageable chunks and set specific time blocks to tackle different tasks. This helps me avoid distractions and ensures that I remain focused on the task at hand. I also make sure to take regular breaks to recharge and avoid burnout, as maintaining a healthy work-life balance is essential for long-term success. I would typically carve out time to go to the gym at least 4 times in the week, twice with a personal trainer which includes a one-hour boxing session.

In the evening, I disconnect and wind down with my wife we will talk about our day and any personal/ life admin matters. We both ensure sufficient rest by prioritising a good night's sleep, allowing to start the next day refreshed and ready to take on new challenges.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

A recent leadership lesson I've learned or been reminded of is the importance of adaptability and flexibility. In today's fast-paced and ever-changing world, leaders need to be able to quickly adapt to new circumstances and embrace change. This includes being open to new ideas, technologies, and ways of doing things. Currently the travel industry is experiencing significant change and disruption, I have witnessed first-hand leaders being rigid and resistant to change hindering progress and limiting their own success. It is crucial to foster a culture of innovation and agility within an organisation to stay ahead of the curve and drive meaningful change.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

"Leaders Eat Last" by Simon Sinek had a profound impact for me. It explores leadership from a biological and anthropological standpoint, emphasising trust, collaboration, and selflessness.

The book illustrates the significance of leaders who prioritise their team members' well-being and success above their own. Sinek's perspective reinforced my belief in servant leadership, trust, and cooperation within an organisation.

One memorable story from the book revolves around Captain William Swenson, a United States Army officer. Swenson's selfless actions during a firefight in Afghanistan exemplified the leadership advocated by Sinek. He risked his life to save wounded soldiers, prioritizing the team's well-being.

This book influenced my leadership style, reminding me of the importance of creating a safe and supportive environment. Through fostering trust, collaboration, and selflessness, I strive to empower and inspire my team members to reach their full potential. Even today, "Leaders Eat Last" continues to serve as a guiding resource as I navigate both challenges and opportunities.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

If I could give one piece of advice to a young leader, it would be to prioritise the development and well-being of their team members. When you invest in the growth and happiness of your team, they become more motivated, engaged, and loyal. Take the time to understand your team members' individual strengths, challenges, and aspirations. Provide mentorship and opportunities for growth, and empower them to take on new responsibilities. Celebrate their achievements and offer constructive feedback to help them improve.

Remember, leadership is not just about achieving results; it's about creating an environment where people can thrive and reach their full potential. By focusing on your team and their success, you lay a solid foundation for your own leadership journey.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

I was recently made redundant after spending 9 years as managing director of a global travel company. Although there were many career highlights and successes, the one thing that stood out more than anything was the relationships I had formed over the years.

Developing meaningful connections can have a profound impact on both personal and professional levels. The relationships I built over the years were a source of support and served as a valuable network in attaining my role as COO of Locomote.

Although redundancy can be a difficult and unexpected event, focusing on the positive aspects of your previous role, helps you navigate this change and approach the next chapter with optimism. It's essential to acknowledge your past achievements and use them as a foundation to build upon in your future endeavours.

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