Power Versus Leadership

By Michael Koethner Wellness & Healing Consultant, Spa Transition | October 20, 2013

There is a silent but very powerful movement happening in the back office of the hotel, wellness and spa industry, and it will awaken and shake up all organizations and companies around the planet like never before. The aristocratic and hierarchical type of leadership, as it was practiced from the early 1900's until very recently, is ancient history. Companies and organizations that still work with the model of the 1900's set themselves up for failure and collapse. The new leadership paradigm will be very beneficial for any company and glorious for the individual. Compassion and deep understanding of each individual's needs and capabilities, will guide the entire new workforce.

Like in many of my previous articles it is again my aim to take a real life example and elaborate a little on the meaning of power versus leadership and what negative and/or positive effects it can have if used in a adequate or inadequate manner. It is of utmost importance in todays working environment not to forget what impact it can have if power and leadership is mixed up and being misused or abused. It is again about creating awareness and with the assistance of everyone something can be done to improve any work environment around the globe.

There is a silent movement or revolution happening in parts of our society, in some classrooms and in some of the well-known companies. It is called "Supportive Leadership". Not entirely new, it has been going on for a few years but predominantly unnoticed. Nevertheless there are still companies in various countries around the planet that are chaired by persons still living in the past century and acting out the power and glory of Napoleon's type of aristocratic or hierarchical leadership.

Now for a short time imagine a morning briefing in an executive office of a new hotel company, and put yourself into one of these people waiting what the chairman has to say. There is a medium size boardroom filled with about 15 highly experienced and knowledgeable professionals, presenting each department of the hotel. Most of them have come across many difficult and challenging situations in various locations around the world, so they are somehow prepared for the worst. In this particular meeting however and minutes before the meeting there was a stillness and stagnation in the room, similar to the calm before the storm, or the water receding before a tsunami hits the shores. Then out of the blue the chairman starts to blast each one of the managers for about 15 minutes, leaving them stunned, shocked, shaken and extremely humiliated to say the least. It was a meeting just like in the times of Czar Rasputin, where the opponents usually solved disagreements with a Russian roulette, aristocratic shoot-out or cowboy style boxing. Shortly after the meeting all of the managers looked at each other in total disbelieve, and they all agreed silently that this was, for a brief time in human history, a war in a boardroom initiated by the chairman that ended in total disaster. The meeting was useless, inefficient, ineffective, inadequate, demoralizing, humiliating, frustrating and a waste of time. The managers could not and did not talk to each other for hours or days after the meeting, due to disbelieve and shock.

This is a very brief look inside of a true story happened only recently this year, not once but three times within a 6-month time frame. Of course the overall moral and integrity of the team was destroyed within minutes. The damage that has been done in these meetings is still being felt up to today. Trust and promises have been broken. Cheating and corruption sneaked into the team as a means of survival. Backstabbing, nasty mobbing, stealing and egotism became part of the daily agenda and modus operandi. Professionalism and adequate manner in communication are no longer practiced. Anything people said was and is still being used against them instantly. No responsibility for own actions, instead there is the blame game in full swing. These are only part of many other negative side effects that are currently being experienced. May be this type of leadership is also happening in other companies, but unfortunately it is happening and it needs to end.

The hospitality industry and its adjacent sector such as the spa and wellness industry are still in the process of re-defining and re-establishing themselves into this new international and interconnected work environment, which is on the rise. The industry is currently experiencing dramatic adjustments of their outdated systems but also behavioral change of their leaders. It will take time before this new paradigm of leadership reaches the boardrooms and the consciousness of this industry. Past behavior patterns of the 60's, 70's and 80's need to be eliminated from the classroom or work environment for the purpose of education or reaching a company goal. These techniques do not work any longer.

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The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.