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Evolve or dissolve: A short history of leadership and lack of it

Evolve or dissolve: A short history of leadership and lack of it

Many years ago I worked for one of the most well-known boutique hotel companies in the United States.

The leader at the time was a bit odd in my estimation. While I am sure he was excellent at many of his functions, I found his people skills a bit unnerving, as he appeared a bit cantankerous and was someone who liked to trip you up in conversations. I learned a lot from him. I learned that authority does not always translate into excellence, integrity or leadership.

Anyway, we had made a lot of unexpected money in the first six months I was with this company. I had repositioned my hotel and corresponding revenue strategies so successfully that we were granted a ?surprise? ? a very much needed rooms renovation. I was so excited about this, as I knew the impact it would have on our profits, team pride and guest happiness. After we showed him the model room for the renovation, he approved, and then admonished me: ?Okay, fine, great model room, but what about the employees?? I stated that the model room was in no way a stand-in for the care and development of our team, and that was a different conversation entirely. I still remember that remark, as it really seemed to come from left field ? kind of like offering someone a glass of wine and getting the reply, ?Thank you. I?d love some, but what about vacuuming??

After a while, I was transferred to run the company?s flagship. To this day, this is one of my favorite hotels in the country in terms of innovation, design, guest delight, team commitment, lots of public relations and lots of profitable results. Once again, I made an effort to have a conversation with the president of our company. I explained to him how we were teasing our guests with new experiences, and they in turn would spread the word and help us with lots of great promotion. I was referring to such things as design elements that could be reproduced at home, a genie service that made room service seem archaic, complimentary tarot card readings, new wines and fun ways to pair them ? things like that. His response was that we are not in the business of educating our guests.

Hmmmmm. Really? Since the late 1980s, have guests in great boutique and lifestyle hotels not taken back home with them ideas for new design elements, new bedding, new spa products, yoga poses, memories of new edible treasures and libation concoctions? Have they not heard new music and been exposed to higher levels of fashion, art and design? Without question, great luxury and boutique hoteliers in particular ? along with great designers and leaders who don?t fear creativity ? have revolutionized expectations, expanded our palates, raised our awareness and massaged our egos.

Whatever position you may hold, be bold in the face of leadership that challenges you in who you are and what you instinctively know. Creativity, not policies, is the only thing that has revolutionized our industry. Perhaps it was all a ruse on the president?s part and what he was really calling from me was the leader within. Perhaps he was just that smart. Perhaps he was just scared of what he didn?t know.   

Anyway, be bold in your thinking. Continue to elevate conversation, education and possibility.
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