Are You the Leader They’ll Thank On Your Last Day?

“This is when you know that you have achieved something important by creating an amazing team and they thank you like this on your last day.”

That was a lead-in quote from a video of the GM of the Address Hotel a 5 star hotel based here in Dubai, where I’m based. The video featured Pascal Dupuis, the hotel’s general manager, on his last day. I was literally blown away watching the video. Following his usual routine of walking through the halls, he was greeted by the hotel’s staff — from the bottom of the org chart to the top — clapping and greeting him like he was a rock star.

Well you know what? He is a Rock Star!

Are you an authentic leader?

When I write about leadership, this is an example of what happens when you do it right. Thus, the term “authentic leadership.”

Authentic leaders are self-aware and genuine. These leaders are self-actualized individuals who are aware of their strengths, their limitations, and their emotions. They also show their real selves to their followers. They do not act one way in private and another in public; they don’t hide their mistakes or weaknesses out of fear of looking weak. They also realize that being self-actualized is an endless journey, never complete.

There is a lot of discussion today of whether leaders are born or made. My thought is that we all have certain qualities and traits that make us better suited to leadership. However, some people just have qualities that stand out even at first glance. You have a conversation with them and it seems like you know them forever. They put you at ease around them and you just connect.

It’s the same way some people are born with a talent for music, while others may take lessons for years, yet never achieve the same level of mastery. Top athletes are the same, they just have that natural ability that makes it look easy.

This is not to say that we can’t all use techniques to get better at what we do.

Mr. Dupuis walked through the applauding gauntlet as if he were dancing to a tune. His calm and confidence are so clear in the video. Someone commenting online described it as “magical.” Others just said “Wow.” I say, if you want to see the effect of great leadership, watch this.

Let your real self come through

I had a boss at one time who told me. “Never be afraid to let your real self come through.” I did not understand the comment, but I knew that while sitting around with friends I was calm, relaxed and playful. However in my first supervisory role I was trying to act like a “boss.” My manager, who was very down to earth, noticed this and gave me that nugget of advice. He saw through my performance and let me know that the award will never come for my acting role, as it was fake.

As I started transitioning from the “boss” persona and let my real self shine through, the magic began. I felt at ease because I was my natural self and not trying to be someone else. My direct reports were more engaged. They felt so much more comfortable with the real me as opposed to the fake version.

One of Mr. Dupuis’s management mantras went something like this, “People looking after people; they give it back 1,000 times.” If you could have an investment that would return 1,000 times over, would you invest in it? You would stand in a queue to make that investment.

So, if you are a leader and you want to build a high powered and high performance organization or team, know that you are the pivotal part of that process.

As I watched that video you could spot middle managers, front line workers and his executive staff; as I said, the entire org chart was represented. It is clear how much of an impact he’s made; his legacy is the example he’s set for young managers, the future leaders of the hotel, by his approach to management.

Let’s go to the videotape

There was a sportscaster in NYC years ago by the name of Warner Wolf. His catchphrase was, “Let’s go to the videotape”. He would use this technique of showing you the facts. As he would say, the tape does not lie. As I watched the Pascal Dupuis video over and over, I began thinking of my next leadership project. I will lead with this video, using it to frame our session.

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How do you turn yourself into this type leader? One that can so obviously energize a workforce.

Change your act

In the Middle East region, I see a lot of the vestiges of the old type leadership of command and control. When I have a conversation with these leaders, I always ask them why they choose to lead this way. Their answers vary, but the common thread is that they feel that this is the way you lead. In some cases we have a “spirited discussion.” They would label a leader like Pascal Dupuis as too soft. Regardless of the final end of the conversation, I leave them with this comment, “Those old ways of doing business are OVER. Just keep on living, you will see.”

So as you look at the video, think of how your last day will be. If you’re a leader, will the troops line the halls for you? If not, change your act; you will be a better person in the end and your organization will be better for it.

Think about the return on that investment.

Ron Thomas

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.