The visionary, architect and manager

The visionary, architect and manager

One of the most important insights when interviewing hospitality executives is determining their leadership style. Although there are several, I prefer three general buckets: the visionary, the architect and the manager. One is no better than the other; they’re just different. Furthermore, most successful leaders will exhibit aspects of all three. But when stressed, most revert to their primary strength. 

Visionaries are people with big ideas and a will to make them a reality. Conrad Hilton comes to mind as a very successful visionary. So does Steve Wynn. These are people who are so clear in their vision that nothing can stand in their way. They also tend to be larger-than-life personalities who command unwavering loyalty. They lead by a cult of personality, and when they find the right architects and managers, it can make for a very powerful combination. Unfortunately, many visionaries never see their dreams realized because of organizational deficiencies. Many others simply get bored with the day-to-day realities of running a business, moving on to their next vision.

Architects are great at building things and demonstrate sound planning and organizational skills. They can take a vision and build the foundation necessary for success. Leaders of this nature are not inventors per se, but find ways to build things better. They lead people by example and have systems that accommodate both standardization and innovation. Steve Bollenbach was a great “architect.” He led numerous companies through great growth and turmoil, creating great returns for owners. His strategic plans were always concise, creative and financially driven. In my opinion, architect leaders often get too much credit for the visionary’s great idea rather than for building on it. Take W, for example: Ross Klein got way too many accolades for being the architect of the W brand when clearly it was Barry Sternlicht’s idea. Maybe Barry liked it that way? When self-aware, architects can be an extremely effective leaders. But when they start believing their press clippings, watch out. Ego and hubris can sometimes get in the way of sound decision-making. 

Managers are the vast majority of the white-collar workforce. These are people who get things done and get great satisfaction in definable outcomes. Rules, regulations and proper conduct are extremely important to these leaders. I find details such as job description, pay, reporting structure, company reputation, work hours and such are key motivators for the manager. Much of their self worth will be tied to the company they work for and their direct boss. I can see why the recent financial crisis was particularly devastating to this group. The great challenge for companies is how to identify managers at a young age who have architect and visionary attributes. We as an industry must foster and encourage bolder action in training the next wave of young leaders for success.