Leadership and legacy: How will you be remembered?

We all crave good leadership and/or want to be that “person”. Especially in times of crisis when chaos seems to be swirling around us. As the lodging and F&B industry begins to reemerge from the pandemic-induced shutdown, we will need true leadership. So what does a good leader actually look like or act like? What are the key traits of a good leader that lead to his/her success and the success of the surrounding team?

Leadership styles

  • Command and Control – think Army General. The chain of command is the ultimate – the leader speaks and you follow with no questions asked. A very efficient approach that allows a quick and dedicated response to all issues.
  • Consensus or Team Approach – management by committee. On the plus side everyone is on the same page and there is little chance of losing perspective or deviation during the implementation phase. Of course you do lose time getting the group together, arriving at the consensus and ultimately implementing the decision,  so this may not always be practical.
  • Situational or Hybrid – some combination of the above depending on the situation. The challenge is that most of us have an inherent preference for one of the above and have difficulty moving from one to the other and sensing when a different approach is appropriate.
  • Fear vs. Respect – as a leader, do you want to be feared and know that your people will do exactly what you ask out of fear from the potential consequences? Of course they may not follow your lead when you aren’t watching. Or do you want to be a respected leader, someone your people want to work with and will follow through whether you are watching or not? On the downside, the respected leader may be viewed as soft, unable to get things done on a timely basis and not suitable for upward promotions.

If you have been in the workforce ,the armed services, politics, or simply part of a large family, you have probably encountered all of these styles and have your own opinion on what works best or as a leader you have your personal preferences. My view of the ideal leader is the leader who can handle the situational/hybrid approach and views respect of his/her team as the first priority.

A friend of mine describes his leadership and decision making style as a pyramid:

  • Top of the pyramid (narrow point) – he dictates the decision and direction. Rarely used, but there as required.
  • Middle of the pyramid – asks for advice and counsel, but he ultimately makes the final decision.
  • Bottom of the pyramid (wide point) – decisions and direction based on consensus. His preferred style and used most often.

10 traits of a good leader

  1. Owns both success and failure – doesn’t blame others to include their predecessors. Once you’re in the job for a reasonable length of time, you own it.
  2. Doesn’t let his/her ego get involved in decision making – especially when a change or tweak in direction is required.
  3. Learns from both success and failures – conducts “after action reviews” to learn for the future.
  4. Accepts candid critique – my boss once told me to speak with him one on one if I didn’t agree with him. In other words he wanted my opinion, but didn’t want to be challenged in a group meeting.
  5. Encourages calculated risk – General Colin Powell had an 80% rule. His premise was that if you waited to be 100% sure, you might miss the opportunity.
  6. Supports his/her people in success and failure – exhibits trust in people as earned.
  7. Provides both guidelines and hard lines. Sometimes you need hard lines and the box has to be clearly defined. Most of the time guidelines are the best direction and they encourage people to be innovative and productive.
  8. Knows and accepts his/her strengths and weaknesses. Surrounds himself/herself with subject matter experts that fill in the weak parts – seeks and accepts advice.
  9. Is able to manage the soft side, shows empathy, allows his/her personal feelings to show when appropriate and cares about people.
  10. Communication – ongoing, candid and consistent. People want to be informed, they want the truth and both are in your best interests as a leader.

How you conduct yourself as a leader helps define your legacy. Have you ever been asked how you want to be remembered? Did you have an immediate answer or did you have to think about it?

Don Shula, the legendary NFL football coach who owns the only perfect winning record for an entire NFL season was asked how he wanted to be remembered and after a pause he said “He played by the rules”. He didn’t say winningest NFL coach in history (which he is), nor did he mention his perfect season. In other words to Don Shula his legacy wasn’t about accomplishments it was about principals.

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In times of crisis such as the current pandemic a leader’s true colors are exposed and we have witnessed the good, the bad and the ugly. Some will be judged in the next election cycle, some will be judged by shareholders or Board of Directors and some will simply be judged by their peers.

For fun, rate the leaders you know, you come in contact with, see on the world stage, etc… using the 10 traits above and give them a score of 1 to 10. How do you think they will be remembered? For getting the job done? For caring about the outcome of their actions? For giving credit to others? For their character? Also rate yourself. How will you be remembered?

Leadership is an art and there is no one right way. Nor do any of us get it right 100% of the time and if you tell me you know a leader who is a perfect 10, I will throw the challenge flag. Leadership is about putting the effort in, learning from your mistakes, listening more than pontificating, doing it better next time, caring about the means and not just the outcome, caring about your people, seizing opportunities and I could go on and on. It is imperative as the lodging and F&B industry begins to reemerge that you remember your most important role – being a true leader.

Hopefully, I have given you something to think about that will make you a better leader and benefit those around you.

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