Hospitality Leadership Series On ‘Professional Visibility’: Engaged Leadership


Seasoned executive search professionals and human capital advisors, Andrew Hazelton and Thomas Mielke, share their thoughts on achieving ‘professional visibility’.

Engaged Leadership’s role in Personal Branding (as published in Hotels Magazine).

Our leadership series focuses on ‘professional visibility’ and ‘personal brand’ building – that is, the competencies, knowledge areas, and personal attitudes that grab the attention of hiring managers and decision-makers and leave a lasting positive impression.

We have previously explored the fundamental association between relatability and professional visibility. Subsequently, we have further defined that concept of professional visibility and segmented it into three components: credibility, confidence and charisma. Here, we examine the notion of ‘engaged leadership.’

Engage, verb: To occupy or attract someone’s interest or attention or to involve someone in a conversation or discussion. It can also refer to the act of formally pledging oneself to do something.

Having interviewed a multitude of c-suite executives around the world, and assisted with numerous corporate succession planning initiatives to prepare the next generation of leaders, we have often heard one common complaint: ‘The candidate should have all the ingredients for success in this job, but for some reason this candidate simply has not gained the support of the team or peers. Put bluntly, the candidate has failed to rally everyone behind one common goal.’

What is this apparently missing ingredient or success factor? We suspect that many executives think of ‘engaged leadership’ far too simplistically or superficially. Yes, they are present; yes, they talk with their teams; and yes, they can be empathic in their interactions with teams. Nevertheless, those aspects reflect just one side of the proverbial coin; the flipside is that leaders also need to dig deeper and show their teams that their level of engagement is sincere and meaningful. ‘Authenticity’ is the classic human resources descriptor in this context.

Remember that we defined ‘engagement’ as personal participation; however, we should add that this must be done in meaningful ways. Sadly, this latter facet appears to be something easily dismissed, minimized, or outright forgotten. Still, it is vital that leaders demonstrate to others up and down the organizational chart that there is a meaningful follow-up to the personal touch-points between the strategic leadership of the firm and those people who get the mission-critical, tactical work done. In short, ‘Accountability is what matters most, not just being engaged.’

Personal key performance indicators (KPIs) and performance improvement plans (PIPs) for senior leaders tend to overly focus on the degree of dedication, loyalty and engagement shown by that one chief. However, ask yourself, ‘Has this person demonstrated unwavering accountability for achieving targets?’ Engagement coupled with accountability reliably deliver superior results and outcomes, if leaders are mindful of the following:

  • Listen and Learn: Trust is earned via active listening, asking questions, and not being afraid of ‘getting your hands dirty.’
  • Give routine performance feedback. To secure commitment, show that you care about others’ success by having those difficult conversations that many put off or ignore. This means providing regular and constructive feedback to individuals in order to promote task ownership, maintain accountability, and reinforce a common set of performance standards.
  • Set the expectation of task ownership. Bring others along the journey, and this means empowering team members to assume control in their work and think and act like owners and c-suite executive.
  • Maintain proper role clarity. A culture of accountability and ‘corporate confidence’ is built on clearly articulated roles and responsibilities for yourself and others. Goals are accomplished most efficiently and effectively when team members understand the parameters that define their personal contributions.

Recapped, relatability, credibility, confidence and charisma are all vital components for successfully conducting a ’corporate orchestra’ whereby each team member contributes to enterprise-wide success while simultaneously being allowed to have singular moments to shine. Achieving this requires an attitude of accountability for oneself and others. This entails leading from the front and by example, actively supporting the success of others, calling out wrongs and rectifying them, and making difficult decisions versus taking the easy ways out.

With these expectations and actions, leaders earn the respect of their teams, peers and senior stakeholders, as well as earn the currency of credibility. And guess what – by doing so, they will have also built themselves a more valuable personal brand.