Leaders of the Future

6 Inspiring Stories of Millennial Go-Getters on the Rise

By Kelly Heitz

True leadership isn't for everyone, but today it is more important than ever. To be a good leader, you can no longer just manage. To be a good leader, you must look at people over the numbers. To be a great leader, you must inspire others in ways they never thought possible.

The corporate leadership qualities of old just aren’t going to cut it anymore. In 2015, millennials officially surpassed Gen Xers as the largest generation in the workforce, per the Pew Research Center. As we already learned from millennial expert Scott Steinberg on page 28, leaders who invoke change and inspire greatness are increasingly important. Millennials want to make an impact at their jobs. They even value that ideal of impact over salary and other benefits. To this generation, it’s not just about bringing home the bacon. They want to feel like they have a purpose. They want to feel like they matter.

Therefore, millennials have the makings to become great leaders. They understand the need to work toward something greater than themselves, and will do everything in their power to make it happen for both themselves and their team.


Dr. Nol Montalbo

Dr. Nol Montalbo grew up with a dream of being a doctor. After graduating medical school at the age of 27, he returned home to find his family in a financial crisis. His childhood home was sold off, along with the memories that went with it. He knew he had to put his dreams on the backburner and find an immediate solution for his family.

So, he started making soap. The business started small. Montalbo hand-crafted the soap in his home then hand-delivered them to clients. In 2007, Montalbo rented an old apartment in Makati, Philippines and converted it into a massage clinic. He knew that combining his medical education and his lifelong practice of Hilot (an ancient Filipino form of massage) would give him an edge. Also, he noticed a need in the market for affordable spa and massage services in the Philippines. Spas were considered a luxury, but knowing the health benefits of spa treatments, he wanted to broaden the client range by making his spa experience as affordable as possible.

“Re-introducing and popularizing the Filipino traditional massage, Hilot, to every Filipino is by far the biggest accomplishment in my life,” says Montalbo. “I grew up with Hilot. Hilot has been a part of Filipino culture for thousands of years and it remains as an integral part of many communities in the Philippines today.”

Hilot is a concoction of bodywork, art, instruments, herbal medicine and even religion. Montalbo remembers that he was laughed at when he included Hilot in the menu of his very first spa. “Swedish and Thai massages were the most popular spa services during that time and it was a struggle for me to study and maintain the integrity of Hilot while suiting it in the spa setting,” he remembers. “I really worked hard to unite traditional Hilot principles with spa standards. I merged my knowledge of Hilot and Western medicine. I fought hard to educate and convince clients that the ‘supernatural’ Hilot can be a professional spa service. And now, after 10 years, Hilot has been synonymous with the Mont Albo Massage Hut brand. And most important of all, almost every spa in the Philippines is now offering Hilot.”

Mont Albo Massage Hut has since grown from one small spa with only a few beds to one of the most successful spa franchises in the Philippines. “Starting an enterprise from scratch, without much capital and formal business education, was a huge challenge,” says Montalbo. “I really have to be diligent in researching, attending seminars, enrolling in massage schools, reading books and asking around just to learn everything in a very fast pace.”

At 37, Montalbo is younger than most of his franchisees. He leads them through his extensive knowledge and reputation in the industry. “I guess my reputation, years of experience and love for Hilot and the spa industry have permeated through them that before they sign the franchise agreement, they are fully aware of me as their leader. They have full trust and respect in every decision I make. My age doesn’t matter to them.”

He does, however, understand the challenges his generation faces in finding a purpose in a career. His advice for young people wishing to be leaders in their field? “Innovate but be sincere in your intentions. Be passionate in your industry because it will give you the thrill in life. Your passion will give you a sense of purpose and a never-ending reason to learn, improve and grow. Passion is like a rocket that will propel you forward and upward as a leader.”


Jan Eisen

Jan Eisen was 35 when he decided to give up his law career and work for the family business. “As fulfilling as working as a lawyer was, I felt there was something missing in my life. A big goal. A mission. Something to last beyond the next closed case,” Eisen recalls. “When my father offered me to join the family business, I realized that this was what I wanted to do. I left the law firm, moved to the countryside in the very South of Germany and got introduced to everything that’s related to the VitaJuwel business.”

VitaJuwel, a company that infuses water with the healing and cleansing powers of gemstones was already a success in Europe and Asia when Eisen came on board. But, like a true leader, he had a vision of introducing the product to a newer, bigger market: America.

“After packing my first 40-foot container with products in August 2013 and sending it to the New World, I followed close behind with my wife and a friend and found a new home in the San Francisco East bay area,” recalls Eisen. “The following two years were probably the most challenging ones in our lives. We spent countless hours on the phone, in my car, in planes and at trade shows promoting our product to a crowd that never heard of gemwater before.”

Despite his initial struggles, Eisen was determined to bring such an innovative product to the U.S. His instincts told him he was in the right place, which drove him even more to succeed. He began to partner with vendors, retailers, spas and distributors who trusted the value of the VitaJuwel product. The company grew so much that, in 2016, the small team outgrew their living room office and garage warehouse and moved to a true office and warehouse facility outside San Francisco.

Eisen’s new challenge is finding a creative and like-minded team to propel the business even further. Although his leadership role is fairly new, Eisen has quickly become the kind of leader who inspires his staff through appreciation and hard work. “I find that regardless of age, you have to earn the respect of every team member by honestly appreciating every contribution the person brings to the success of the project,” he says. “You must always be willing as a team leader to do the lowliest job and jump in to pull the cart out of the dirt. Don’t expect tasks of others that you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself.”

Eisen certainly isn’t afraid to do the small things to help the big picture. After taking his family business across continents, he reflects on the past while giving advice to other young leaders who wish to forge their own paths: “My biggest accomplishment has been establishing a business in a foreign country that has a huge potential, is driven by a wonderful mission, is fueled by a team of great people and makes the everyday life of tens of thousands of people a little better. To other young leaders out there: Open your mind for chances in every second of your life, then grasp and pursue them however unreachable they seem with every bit of energy you have.”


Javier Nuñez-Jusino

The earlier you can get started on your dreams, the better. At least that was the case for Javier Nuñez-Jusino, who rose to the position of spa supervisor at Pure Spa Pelican Grand Beach Resort at the age of 19. “I started to work in the spa industry when I was 19 years old,” recalls Nuñez-Jusino. “I had been in the hospitality industry for a little over four years, and when the position of spa supervisor became available, I decided to give it a shot. I researched the industry and was fascinated with all the learning opportunities that I was going to experience throughout the years.”

He started his career at 16, working as a front desk agent while still in high school. He immediately grew to love the fast-paced customer service environment that the hospitality industry provided. After moving to Florida, he began his career at the Pelican Grand, again at the front desk. When the spa supervisor position opened, he took a leap and applied for the position. “After interviewing with my spa director, George Powell-Lopez, he gave me the opportunity to work with him and to mentor me. I’ve been working under his leadership and guidance for over a year now.”

Nuñez-Jusino does see challenges in being such a young leader, but he has found that listening and working with people more senior than himself can make all the difference. “Many times, team members who have been in the industry for 10 years or longer do not have the same level of respect {for me] as they would to someone who has been in the industry an equal amount of time and longer,” he says. “I listen to them. I ask for their advice. I learn from their experiences. I do many of the things they do and lead by example.”

Research is Nuñez-Jusino’s key to success. He notes that many young people make the mistake of growing complacent when they get the job they have been striving for. “Once they learn how things operate in their current place of employment and feel comfortable with their product knowledge, they stop learning. They stop researching and seeing what’s out there.” He suggests constantly staying on top of the industry by knowing the latest trends, researching, and networking with other professionals at various levels in their careers. His best advice? “Read, read, read and do not stop learning!”


Miranda Henning

Most of the time, getting out of your comfort zone is the best thing for you. You can’t grow from complacency. For Miranda Henning, that meant getting out of her small Pennsylvania town and jumping head first into the spa industry. She packed up and moved to Miami with her best friend, whose family was entrenched in the industry. They took her under their wing and taught her the basics, giving her the foundation she needed to be able to flourish.

After working in guest services at both a country club and a hotel in South Florida, Henning decided to move back home. “Fortunately, I have a gem of a resort basically in my backyard, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort,” says Henning. She was hired by The Woodlands Spa at Nemacolin as a guest services attendant in 2006.

“I spent the next two years observing as much as possible about the operation, specifically leadership styles and group sales. Our group planner at the time became my mentor. She taught me everything she knew about her role and counted on me as her right hand,” recalls Henning. Her determination paid off. In 2008, she accepted the role of guest services supervisor and groups coordinator. Then, in October of 2011, she was promoted to manager of guest services and groups. In the summer of 2016, Henning was ultimately promoted to assistant spa director.

“It was the biggest accomplishment of my career thus far,” Henning says of her promotion. During Nemacolin’s interim spa director’s maternity leave, the spa brought Jean Kolb, owner of consulting company Jean Kolb Well By Choice, on board to run the ship. Hennings credits Kolb’s guidance as a propeller for her career.

“Jean was motivating and helped me work through my challenges with a strong sense of urgency and professionalism. By the end of Jean’s tenure with us, our interim director assumed the role of director of spa and wellness and I moved into the assistant director role,” says Henning. “I felt very honored to have been recommended for this position by Jean, as we had no prior history or personal relationship established. She only knew me through the work performed over the summer and she trusted that I was qualified and now ready for this role.”

Henning’s hard work and dedication have been the building blocks of her career since she was 18. Touting her parents for instilling her with a strong work ethic, she hopes other leaders in her generation are prepared to work their way to the top. “I think people of my generation look for shortcuts; the quickest way to get to the end-result without doing the work in between,” she notes. Her advice for others looking to follow in her footsteps is along the same line. “It’s important to lose any sense of entitlement you may have and know that the world doesn’t owe us anything. Be patient, dedicated, and confident.”


Natalie Aston

Leading an international team is never easy. You can’t be everywhere at once! Although, Natalie Aston, international trainer at FarmHouse Fresh, makes it look like a piece of cake.

After running her own spa out of her home in Texas, Aston knew she wanted more. She went to the Arlington Spa Show with a stack of resumes only to fall in love with the team and mission at FarmHouse Fresh. “Unbeknownst to me, I handed my resume to the owner [Shannon McLinden] and said briefly, ‘I love and use your products, so I just wanted to give you my resume to see if you need any help on a part-time basis for conventions.’ I took 10 resumes with me and came home with nine. I only saw happiness with FarmHouse Fresh.” That happiness came to fruition as she was hired to work conventions for the skincare company part-time. She enjoyed that role for almost a year until she was offered a full-time position creating the FarmHouse Fresh training program.

“I am beyond elated, as to what has happened with my career in the last six years,” says Aston. “We now have a flourishing training program with stellar people who not only love their jobs, but are also a voice within the program.”

Listening to the opinions of her team is a huge component of her leadership philosophy. “When my team tells me they passionately love what they do, are thankful for their position, see longevity with our company and enjoy having me as their leader, to me that is my biggest accomplishment so far.”

Aston has found that preparation and research allow her to be taken seriously as a leader, despite her young age. “I arrive fully prepared, very organized and having done my research,” she notes. “Through stories of experience I can relate to the groups of people and be a credible, trustworthy partner.”

As a trainer, Aston comes across a lot of young people who feel unhappy in their chosen career. The training program she developed helps her team feel more prepared for anything that might come up, but she notes that sometimes it won’t work out, and that’s OK. “I think a lot of young people initially take a job for the salary or commission, but find that they are not happy on a daily basis. Make sure you are truly passionate about what you do.”


Stevie White

A career passion can spring up out of nowhere. You must be open to change in order to grasp it.

At least that’s how it began for Stevie White, 29-year-old spa director at Joya Spa at Omni Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Montelucia. When she got a job at Joya’s front desk, she thought it was just a job, she didn’t think about a career in the industry. However, the more she threw herself into her position and explored the world of spa, the more she knew it was the place for her.

She began training to move into the spa desk lead position within a year of her start. After gaining some experience, she transitioned to the spa operations supervisor role in 2010. Then, she set her sights for the big one: spa director. “I worked alongside some great mentors who pushed me in my career path and helped me set accomplishable goals,” White remembers. “After working hard and persevering through obstacles, I was promoted to the assistant director role, then eventually spa director.”

She credits the standout leaders who came before her for her quick rise through the ranks. “Erin Stewart was the spa director who hired me, and she pushed me at every level to do more and learn more every day,” says White. “She shaped the spa director I am today and I can say without a doubt that I am where I am today because of her standout leadership and ability to create a collaborative team atmosphere where everyone thrived.”

White has faced challenges in her career, most particularly her young age and having the confidence in herself to be able to lead such a great team. “When I took the assistant director role, we had associates that had been in the field for longer than I had been alive,” says White. “It was tough to give direction to senior staff members considered experts in their field. I did my best to make the best decisions for our teams and remain as fair as possible until it became second nature to me. After a few times of the outcome being what was best for our team, I had gained the respect of the team and my age no longer plays a factor in how they approach or see me.”

White hopes that industry newbies in her generation aren’t afraid to step up and work hard for their leadership roles. She understands the challenge of youth, but touts the spa industry as open to hard workers of any age. “We constantly need to remind ourselves to stay humble and really work hard for what we want. It’s easy to feel like we deserve the next step up after a certain point in time in a specific role but we have to remember that it’s the work we do and the things we accomplish that will take us places, not the time spent.”