“The Three Ways of Great Leaders”

This FastCompany article describes how two Harvard Business School professors conducted an extensive study of great leaders of business.  In doing so, they exposed a leadership attribute that had previously not received much attention: “contextual intelligence,” or the ability to understand and respond to the social, political, technological, and demographic forces of one’s time.

Further, the professors found that while all great business leaders shared contextual intelligence, they diverged into three distinct prototypes:

  • The entrepreneurial leader
  • The leader as manager
  • The charismatic leader

When we consider the hospitality industry, there are numerous examples of great leaders of all three prototypes, whose high contextual intelligence has positively impacted the guest experience.

For example, Barry Sternlicht of Starwood (charismatic leader) possessed the contextual intelligence to recognize that the two most important elements of a guestroom were the bed and the shower and that guests did not want to sacrifice their standard of living while on the road.  Hence, Westin’s Heavenly Bed and Heavenly Shower.  Then there’s Danny Meyer (entrepreneurial leader), who had the contextual intelligence to deviate from the finer offerings of Union Square Café and create the ravenously popular Shake Shack, which is now slated to open its first location in Miami and another one overseas in Kuwait City.

As the hospitality industry continues to climb out of the recession and as the world changes immensely simultaneously, it will be fascinating to observe which other hospitality leaders emerge as the ones with the most contextual intelligence and the ability to apply it.

© 2024 Coyle Hospitality Group. Reproduction of any material without written authorization is strictly prohibited.

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