AETHOS Consulting Group

London – During last month’s 10th Edition of the Ecole Hoteliere De Lausanne’s (EHL) Young Hoteliers Summit, panels and sessions focused on the multifaceted aspect of hospitality and its growing complexity. EHL alum and AETHOS London Managing Director Thomas Mielke, through his panel participation, discussed the “Pitfalls and Challenges of 21st Century Management and Leadership.” Mielke exchanged his thoughts and views with fellow panelists: Dorchester Collection Chief People and Culture Officer Eugenio Pirri, Director of People and Culture for Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts Michael Hirschler, Swiss International Airlines’ Lorenzo Stoll (Head of Western Switzerland), and Viking Cruises’ Niko Viramo, Director Onboard Operations.

Among Mielke’s key messages:

An Organisation’s Culture is a Company’s Greatest Asset
Shares Mielke, “Strong cultures are based on shared values driven both from the bottom-up and top-down. These values need to be authentic, and most importantly, they also need to be ingrained and re-inforced by an organisation’s strategies, best practices and behaviours.”
Referencing AETHOS research, Mielke adds, “Based on a hospitality-specific study, AETHOS has actually been able to identify common denominators which define company cultures within the most successful hospitality organisations globally – collaboration, empathy, enthusiasm, innovation, integrity and performance excellence.” The pitfalls of an overly strong, or rigid, company culture create an organisation which will become inflexible and unable to adjust to changes in the business or work environment. As a consequence, such organisations stifle innovation and create obstacles for effective decision-making.

A Shift in Structure Can Lead to a Network Organisation.
“There are not many Zappos-equivalents found in the (traditional) hospitality industry. And what is the hospitality sector if not a shining example of the success of centralised organisations?” asks Mielke. “For example, in the Food and Beverage space, we have seen the proliferation of casual dining or fast food brands. And, of course, in the hotel space the brands and management companies are getting bigger and more diversified year-by-year, most of them backed by centralised and formulaic management structures.” However, the industry is somewhat ‘schizophrenic’ in that regard.

“Although many industry players are based on centralised structures, this does not mean that the sector is hierarchical in all its leadership and management aspects. On the contrary, entrepreneurial talent is very often high on the priority list of AETHOS’ hospitality clients – individuals who think on their own feet and take decisive actions.” In the lodging sector and, perhaps even more so in the hugely complex cruise segment, leaders are very much asked to ‘run their own show’.”

There still is an Inherent Need for Diversity in the Hospitality Industry.
Mielke acknowledged that ‘diversity’ is a hotly debated topic in the sector. Referencing recent AETHOS studies, Mielke highlighted that “in the US restaurant industry, for example, we have noted that the number of board seats held by women has only marginally improved over the last four-years [from 18% in 2015 to 19% in 2018].” In the hotel space, the improvement was much more significant – albeit starting from a lower base.

“We have reviewed the 50 largest hotel management companies in the world. In 2018, 16% of the CEOs were women. Eight to ten years ago, this was at 2%. So, it is moving into the right direction, but it is nowhere near where it should be.”

Mielke continued questioning whether quotas might help make a difference. “From what we are seeing in the industry, this is at least a short- to mid-term solution. And, what we are witnessing in the industry is that it has helped put ‘diversity’ front of mind also with our clients.” But we also need to stress that the picture is not as grim as it may look. “If we are looking as Chief Sales Officer or Heads of Sales & Marketing, I’d argue that probably 40%-50% of the executives in those roles are women. The same things hold true for HR roles. So, there are certain functions where women are at least as represented, if not more, than men.”

Thomas Mielke is a Founding Partner and Managing Director at AETHOS Consulting Group. He is a fully certified executive search consultant by the AESC and has a track record in senior level appointments at leading hospitality organizations across the globe; with a particular focus on the lodging, restaurant, food service, real estate, cruise and tourism sectors. Acting as a trusted advisor, Thomas equally supports the process of identifying and developing values and best practices that define and foster a corporate culture and consults his clients on talent management programs. Thomas has authored numerous articles on corporate governance and leadership and can be reached at tmielke@aethoscg.com

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About AETHOS Consulting Group

AETHOS Consulting Group is a global hospitality advisory firm serving the hotel, restaurant, casino, cruise line, club and travel technology sectors. We enhance value for our partner organizations via access, know-how and fresh thinking. Core competencies include executive search, compensation consulting, organizational development and psychometric assessments. Through strategic joint-ventures, AETHOS also assists clients with logistics, supply chain management and insurance solutions. Structured as a single partnership, AETHOS operates from locations in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. www.aethoscg.com