Lead With Heart

There is a time and a place for everything. Some moments call for skilled management. This, however, isn’t one of those moments. We cannot manage our way out of this situation. 

In times like these, we need something different. This moment requires leadership. 

Make no mistake, there is a big difference between the two. Management is about execution. Leadership is about finding ways, not just to get it done, but to do it better. Managers optimize. They value efficiency above all else. Leaders inspire and motivate. They see themselves as mentors first and foremost. Ultimately, leaders are people focused rather than process focused. And, right now, we need to put people first. 

I’m not going to name names but, I’m seeing it in my industry. The pandemic shut us down and furloughs and layoffs rippled through the hotel world like a giant stone tossed into a pond. 

Without revenue, you have to adjust. It is a hard thing, but it needs to be done. Unfortunately, it breaks my heart to see the way some people approached this difficult time. They did the math, made the cuts, executed and optimized and managed the issue efficiently. And never looked back. Their employees were left feeling like collateral damage, out in the cold, forgotten, discarded. They approached this like managers, not leaders. And, that’s a shame. 

As leaders, we must never lose sight of our humanity. Because when we put people first, business will follow. Employees or customers, we are all just people. And, we all want the same things: transparency, reassurance and genuine connection. 

I’ve seen a lot of managers out there but, there are leaders, too. I think in particular of the hotel GMs who have been holding weekly calls with furloughed employees to keep them up to date, connected and cared for throughout this crisis – even if they don’t have any news to report, this care and camaraderie is real and valuable. And, I know those employees can trust their employer has their back and they will be ready to come back when business rebounds. I think of the chefs and restauranteurs who have been making family dinners for their employees and providing them boxes of food, even while their dining rooms were closed. Because they recognize that those employees exist beyond the confines of their four walls and balance sheet. I think of the entrepreneurs and small business owners who secured PPP loans and created work for their employees even when there were no customers. Many a patio and storeroom got repainted. That’s nice, of course. But, more importantly, those baristas and salespeople who picked up a paintbrush knew that they were a valuable part of a team and they were being led through this challenging time. Not just managed. 

As leaders, we must strike a balance between the bottom line and the needs of your people. Especially in times of crisis. People look to leaders to give them comfort and care. We cannot navigate the challenges of this moment with a management mindset. We must make our humanity our guiding star and lead with heart. Our people deserve it.