Leadership has been and always will be a hotly discussed (and hotly debated) topic. From analyzing patterns in the animal kingdom to scrutinizing the sleeping patterns of historic leaders, hundreds of people on a daily basis seek to discover the ultimate key to good leadership.
The fact of the matter is there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Different organizations will have differing needs, and different people will have differing ways of meeting those needs. Asking every person to try and follow a single leadership style is akin to trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, and will ultimately cause more harm than good.
While there may be no definitive answer to the question of how to be a good leader, there is one step that can be taken that will surely lead to better results: establishing values and leading with them. Values provide a reliable and guiding foundation that can be used to guide decision making while also creating a strong company culture and increasing transparency throughout the organization as a whole.
“When you are an entrepreneur, your business is essentially an extension of you, and it should always reflect your beliefs and values as a result,” said Dr. Barry Lall, president and chief executive officer of Pinnacle Hotels USA.
Lall has over three decades of leadership experience under his belt, having built his hotel management company from the ground up. Starting his business with a single loan and a 12-room motor lodge on the coast of California, today as leader of Pinnacle Hotels USA Lall oversees nine properties that between them house nearly 1,800 rooms and seven restaurants.
Prior to becoming a hotelier Lall had already found success as a family practice doctor, but upon emigrating to the United States from the United Kingdom found himself inspired by the land of opportunity and decided to pursue his entrepreneurial passions. It is perhaps this background that inspired his own value system which he calls a ‘triangle of caring.’ In Dr.Barry Lall’s value system, Pinnacle Hotels USA’s guests, associates and assets all form an equilateral triangle in terms of importance, with each being an important aspect of the business growing and thriving.
“Every single person in my company knows that I expect professionalism, quality, leadership, teamwork, integrity and appreciation, and in every decision I make for the company I also try to exemplify those values. If you compromise your value system for the sake of turning a larger profit, the triangle of caring will become unbalanced as a result and your business will inevitably suffer,” said Lall.
There is data to back up Lall’s claim. Consumers are increasingly taking a business’ values into account when making patronizing decisions, with 63 percent of consumers saying they would like to purchase products and services from companies that have a purpose that resonates with their own values and belief systems. They are even willing to purposefully avoid companies that go against what they believe.
A strong value system has also shown to greatly improve long-term outlook and sustainability for businesses. One study found that brands with a higher sense of purpose saw a value increase of 175 percent over a 12-year period, which is over double the median growth rate of 86 percent – showing that integrating values into a company’s strategy has a measurable impact on both scalability and profit.
Outside of results, creating and exemplifying a value system can also improve the overall health of the organization’s culture, making it a place that employees feel proud to work at. When teams understand the values of an organization it can lead to improved communication, as a shared value system means that even when there are disagreements it is still mutually understood what the end goal is. This alignment of a purpose means that both employees and leaders are more free to communicate with each other, even on sensitive subjects. They will also be more likely to build stronger bonds with each other, engaging in more meaningful interactions thanks to a shared sense of purpose and value.
When leaders have a set of company values to ascribe to, it also makes the hiring process that much easier. Bringing people in who are already aligned with the work ethic and value system of the company will result in higher levels of performance overall, as there is less of a learning curve and the team members are already attuned to the purpose of the company.
The value system and purpose will look different for each organization and its leader, but Lall’s ‘triangle of caring’ provides a unique perspective in its fully-formed status. “Just as a stool can’t function without one of its three legs, our business won’t thrive if all three of those factors aren’t being cared for,” said Lall.
While in every business there is a reliance on associates, in the hospitality industry in particular they play a large role in the health of the hotel. Lall has noticed in particular that if a hotel is experiencing a large amount of turnover, guest satisfaction levels often stall alongside it, and for that reason it is important that each member of his team understand the set tone and culture. Caring about the associate for Lall also means making sure to listen to their own needs and concerns, staying vigilant and paying attention to their satisfaction as much as a guest’s. Whether in the hotels or in Pinnacle Hotels USA’s corporate office, Lall tries to project the values he espouses to create a level of comfort that enables his associates to speak up.
It is an oft-repeated phrase that ‘the customer comes first” but for Lall the guest is an integral but equal aspect of a successful hotel. With a satisfied and fulfilled staff of associates the attention then turns to satisfying the guest, which isn’t as straightforward as it seems. In the hotel world there is a certain etiquette and element of service that must be understood, and congeniality for Lall goes a long way in creating a good environment for his guests and turning them into repeat customers. This means empowering associates to feel that they have a say in how to solve a problem–because they are ultimately doing so with the company’s underlying purpose in mind.
Lall also seeks to empower his associates when it comes to taking care of the assets – the hotels themselves and the third part of the triangle of caring. Much of asset management also comes down to the decisions of those in the corporate office of Pinnacle Hotels USA, where decisions are made for investing in making sure the properties remain at very high levels and deliver from a guest standpoint the cutting edge, such as keeping up technological improvements and updating its physical appearance to prevent looking dated.
“In my opinion, if you take care of the associates, if you take care of the guests, and if you take care of the assets, then the financial results just grow automatically, you don’t even have to work hard for it,” said Lall.
Dr. Lall’s ‘triangle of caring’ value system purposefully neglects to mention money, as this is not a value system but a result of the hard work that a set of values can create. By emphasizing these values day in and day out, talking about them at every meeting and taking every opportunity to show how a decision is based on these three pillars, Lall communicates that these are the foundation and base of the company, and by keeping them in one’s mind the company will inevitably thrive.