The past year was full of compelling events and personalities within the hospitality industry, and looking back, many leaders stand out as strong contenders for the title of “Leader of the Year.” To our way of thinking, anyone receiving this designation must exhibit true “servant leadership” by aligning people practices to business practices, and in so doing, bring about tremendous quantifiable results and return on investment (ROI) for all shareholders.
For example, arguably the most obvious and easily defendable choice is Arne Sorenson at Marriott. He pulled off the biggest deal in the history of the hotel business, has been fighting for LGTB rights and personally intervened when the daughter of AETHOS CEO Keith Kefgen was having difficulty with her hotel reservation at the Cancun Marriott. Now that’s service orientation at every level – from individual customers to society at large – and Marriott is certainly to be envied for this and many other business reasons.
That said, there’s another candidate who also unquestionably deserves the title… Sebastien Bazin at Accor. He’s taken what was a fairly unexciting, France-centric and principally budget-focused hotel group and turned it into an exciting industry disruptor. He has demonstrated leadership that is bold, embraces innovation, is inclusive and inspires. Bazin’s highlights include:
- Moving into AirBnB’s home rental space with the acquisition of Onefinestay;
- Spinning off from ownership arm Hotelinvest into a separate subsidiary;
- Moving into lifestyle space with 25Hours partnership and rolling out the Mama Shelter brand;
- Acquiring premium concierge/loyalty player John Paul;
- Strengthening luxury offerings with the acquisition of Fairmont/Raffles;
- Creating new “social” brand Jo & Joe;
- Opening Accor’s own booking platform to independent hotels.
His leadership has made Accor a company people now want to work for and one that is more global in outlook. If that is not enough, Bazin is similar to Arne Sorenson in that he cares about results as well as how those results are achieved. Core values, mission and vision define individual and team actions. Case in point, the day before every board meeting Bazin apparently meets with a group of younger, up-and-comer/millennial employees to discuss the board agenda and to gain their perspective and input. He has the confidence to welcome opposing views that challenge his assumptions and round out his own thinking; so, in the end, decisions and actions are based as much as possible on measured, balanced and forward-thinking evaluations.