Class Of 2020 – Forged In Crisis, The Servant Leader Of Tomorrow


It has already become clear that the uncertainty caused by Covid-19 has forced the industry to become much more creative and innovate. What will the sector’s executives take from the experiences gained during such unprecedented times of crisis?

  • First and foremost, as a matter of priority, many of the industry’s CEOs have already upped their game and displayed more publicly their ‘servant leadership’, well knowing that during times of crisis, communication and compassion are key to keeping morale high – thus ‘steadying the ship’ so that one is ready for when things improve. Although the sector’s current performance issues will certainly continue for a good while longer, executives know full well that demand will eventually come back – everyone is therefore trying to avoid major lay-offs as one needs to be ready for when that turnaround comes. The message across the board is thus ‘we are in it together’.
  • There has also been observed a lot more commitment from the industry’s leadership teams towards (finally) securing HR’s seat at the board table. Everyone is analysing one’s organisational structures, identifying inefficiencies and/or redeployment opportunities; and everyone recognised the important role that HR plays in all of that. Are there hiring freezes? Caps on any further salary increases? Is non-essential staff at risk? Are promotions being put on hold? Yes – but most notably there are also a lot of conversations with the Human Resources and Talent Management teams about securing employees’ (mental) wellbeing, about cross-training and mentorship support programs as well as about opportunities to attract talent (which might otherwise not have been open or interested to consider a career change).
  • ‘Agility’ has also become key with business leaders not only constantly reviewing cost structures but also regularly revisiting the accuracy of business cases and forecasts and developing new strategies and tactics to streamline operations. Product and service offerings are being reduced, facilities shut, and rigorous measures implemented to protect staff and guests alike. Some hotel companies are offering their empty hotel beds to doctors as well as support and emergency staff who have been deployed into affected areas. Others are trying to ‘outsource’ their services to residents and neighbourhood businesses. Overall, up and down the organisational chart, hospitality executives around the globe are working more closely together, across previous ‘enemy lines’, to arrive at the most optimal outcomes. Brands are closely coordinating with their franchise partners and owners, and asset managers are stepping in to help identify inefficiencies and/or assist with what many businesses are struggling with the most – cash flows.

Undoubtedly, the industry finds itself in unchartered territory and requires its stakeholders to think on their feet and to master ambiguity. Those that seemingly have risen to shine are the executives who have not only displayed business ingenuity but who have put people-driven strategies into practice and who have demonstrated humbleness as well as kindness and solidarity with those surrounding them… People say every generation has its defining moments; often shared experiences which forge a common mentality, attitudes and character traits. Perhaps 2020 represents that turning point for the future generation of business leaders as Covid-19, however awful it is, has helped all of us to remember that we should be putting the interests of the ‘greater good’ first.