Last week I was absolutely thrilled to attend the Center for Non-Profit Advancement’s 37th Annual Awards event at the Hamilton in DC. The venue was edgy, and we celebrated all of the amazing work done by non-profits in the DC market. In particular, Christopher Fay, the Executive Director of Homestretch, received the 2016 #EXCELAward for his leadership in reducing homelessness for families in the DMV area.
As we celebrated leaders, there was an intimate coffee shop style interview with J.W. Marriott Jr. where he highlighted his key insights into the top characteristics of a leader. Not surprisingly, his insights were absolutely on brand and delivered with humility.
1. Listen to Others
2. Decide to Decide
A critical characteristic of a leader is to make the easy and the hard decisions. He stated that a leader must “decide to decide.” Kicking the can down the road was not the right answer and it also leaves people in potentially vague situations where lack of clarity can impact productivity and morale. One thing that also came up was to involve employees in decisions that affect them.
3. Leave Your Ego at the Door
Another element to his success has been to leave his ego at the door. He always eats in the cafeteria with his employees. Every day. There is no separate dining room for the executives – the expectation at Marriott is that everyone should eat together. Leaders that bring their ego into their place of work will definitely be out of touch and create a culture that does not work for everyone. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers.
4. Focus on Your Family
Just as Marriott was built out of a family business, the culture of Marriott to this day still follows the family. Mr. Marriott was emphatic that his commitment was to be home every night at 6:30 pm. Without fail, unless he was traveling. It was important in his mind that family stay central to how the business operated. The entire Marriott team is one big family.
A big part of the Marriott brand is that it has roots in Washington D.C., which date back to 1927, with the families’ first root beer shop. Marriott is grounded in the notion of staying competitive, not complacent. Listening to Mr. Marriott Jr. was wonderful. He was sharp as a tack, kind, and self-deprecating. In fact, his best career advice to people coming out of college was to stay humble.