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Lessons In Leadership

Top Hotel CEOs Share Their Inspiration, Organizational Philosophies

Monday, April 09, 2018
Dennis Nessler
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Leadership means different things to different people. Nowhere was that more evident than on center stage at the recent AAHOA conference where a number of high-profile hotel brand CEOs were asked to offer their thoughts on what makes an effective leader and the type of culture they have sought to instill within their respective organizations.

Pat Pacious, President and CEO, Choice Hotels International, detailed his leadership style and long-term objectives.

“Every Monday morning my executive team sits down and we meet to make sure we’re achieving our goals and making sure that we’re delivering for our franchisees. When I look around the table at those meetings every person has one leadership trait in common; a growth mindset. I consider this to be the most important quality a member of my executive team can possess. Because those with a growth mindset do the most to maximize a return-on-investment for our owners. A leader with a growth mindset says things like, ‘I can learn anything I want’; ‘I want to be challenged’; and ‘I don’t give up.’

Pacious applied that philosophy to challenges specific to the lodging industry.
“Whether it’s the proliferation of distribution channels, the impact of the sharing economy or the way that new technology seems to spring up overnight, the only way to win is to operate under a growth mindset,” he stated.

Pacious later added, “To borrow a quote from Robert F. Kennedy ‘our leaders dream of things that never were and ask why not?’ My leaders have asked why not time and time again and thanks to our growth mindset it’s paid off.”

Ironically, it was another Kennedy that provided the inspiration for Eric Danziger, CEO, Trump Hotels, who credited President John F. Kennedy and his mission to put an American on the moon as being particularly meaningful.

“He said ‘we will put a man on the moon and return him safely by the end of this decade not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard.’ What happened was, of course, on July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong walked on the moon because of that man’s vision, commitment and drive to create a better future. Whether or not it’s better for us to live on the moon, the point was we can do what we don’t think we can do today. If great people are inspired they commit their heart, they commit their energy, and we commit the resources and make the impossible happen,” stated Danziger.

He continued, “I think President Kennedy is largely responsible for the significant progress made from the 60’s on for a better place and better people. I’m no John Kennedy, not even a fraction, but the subject was inspiration about what creates a great leader and is there anything you can learn from? I’ve learned from that to take on the hard task and to try to do it well and inspire people. We need to create a moon in everything that we do in our personal lives and our business lives and then create the vehicle in which we get there.”

Meanwhile, David Kong, President & CEO, Best Western Hotels & Resorts, addressed leadership from the standpoint of the rapid pace of change.

“Best Western has a very strong culture that’s focused on people. We believe in this success of our people and want to empower them to achieve their great objectives, but more and more I ask myself if that alone is enough? I think most of you would agree with this statement ‘the speed of change is the fastest I’ve seen in my lifetime.’ If you look at all the factors that are driving change, you’ve got technology advances at breakneck speed…We’ve got a bunch of disruptors and they’re going to drive a lot more change. And we’ve got a generational shift going. Just think in the last five year how many changes we have made to hotels because we want to appeal to the millennials? They are going to be a huge driving force of change.

“To sum it up you’ve got a lot of factors that are driving change. In fact, the speed of change is the slowest I will see in my lifetime. What is the difference between the two statements? One is looking at things backwards in the rearview mirror and you tend to be reactive with that statement, but the other one is looking forward into the future and you tend to proactive. I suggest to you what we want to look for are people that can think into the future; people who can think like disruptors,” Kong concluded.


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Dennis Nessler    Dennis Nessler
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