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Emerging Insights, 20 September 2023


“It’s from a wise mind that we see and unleash the genius in each other!”


In a world where business cards and LinkedIn profiles often resemble a title-juggling competition, it’s easy to forget the profound truth shared by Mark Hoplamazian, the CEO of Hyatt Hotels. In a recent interview, Mark dropped a gem of wisdom that caught my attention and resonated deeply with the essence of wise leadership.

Mark’s revelation? “Your title is the booby prize.”

Now, let’s not mistake this for some corporate riddle. It’s a profound insight that every leader, aspiring or seasoned, should savour.

Here’s the thing: the best leaders don’t wield their titles like sceptres. They don’t rely on their status or rank to lead; they understand that leadership is a profoundly human endeavour. The title might get you compliance; it might even earn you a snazzy office with a view, but it rarely connects with the hearts and minds of your team.

Mark’s words remind us that wise leadership goes far beyond the hierarchy, compliance, and the robotic act of order-taking. It’s about connecting with the real, messy, and wonderfully diverse souls that make up your team. It’s human to human.

Think about it – every day, your team members wake up with dreams, fears, and aspirations. They have families, hobbies, quirks, and a unique blend of experiences that shape who they are. They aren’t drones waiting for orders; they’re human beings with their own stories.

Wise leaders recognise this. They invest time in understanding what makes each team member tick. They listen actively, ask questions, and cultivate an environment where everyone feels valued and heard. They don’t just demand compliance; they inspire commitment.

In the interview, Mark tells his personal experience participating in an empathy training session at Hyatt. During an exercise, he partners with an assistant front office manager. Mark starts the conversation by asking about her experience with the organization, to which she replies, “It’s all great.” Initially, Mark senses that the manager views him solely as the CEO, and she continues to share positive feedback about the organization.

However, Mark took a different approach and opened up about his own experience when he first started as the CEO. He admitted to feeling scared and overwhelmed by the role. This display of vulnerability prompted the assistant manager to connect with Mark ‘the human being’ behind the title and open up as well, sharing her actual and negative onboarding experience, which primarily focused on compliance.

Mark is shocked by her experience and feels mortified. He realises that the onboarding process should be more welcoming and accommodating. Furthermore, he recognizes that the onboarding process had been designed from the perspective of the designer, in this case, the HR department, rather than considering the needs and experiences of new employees joining the organisation.

Wise leaders know that to truly lead; they must become “people leaders.” They understand that connecting with their team members on a personal level is what builds trust and loyalty. It’s what fuels engagement and sparks creativity. It’s what transforms a group of individuals into a cohesive, motivated, and high-performing team.

Now, titles serve a purpose, especially in the context of identifying job roles. However, it’s easy to become entangled in the deeper psychology of titles or any label. The mental associations we attach to titles – authority, status, power, hierarchy, identity, boundaries, and more – often quietly operate in the background, beyond our conscious awareness.

Why is this important?

This significance lies in the fact that our learned and embodied understanding of titles shapes how we perceive and project our psychology and energy in our interactions with the world. This can obscure our view, preventing us from truly seeing and connecting with the human soul behind these titles and labels. Ultimately, this hindrance can impede us from fully engaging with one another. It can also prevent us from drawing out the best in each other in practical, meaningful ways.

When we shift our perception, we also alter how we project it into the world. This change subtly affects the energy we project, potentially either dismantling or erecting guardrails in others.

To illustrate the impact of perception on our interactions, let me share an experience. I once worked with a manager who had to engage in a ‘difficult’ conversation with a ‘challenging’ staff member. The staff member’s mood and performance had deteriorated, negatively impacting the company’s operations. The manager felt uncomfortable and awkward at the thought of this conversation, anticipating the staff member to attend the meeting with their arms defensively crossed and closed off to what needed to be discussed.

They became entangled in the ‘label’ of a ‘difficult person’ and its emotional associations, which influenced their thinking and the energy they projected. With this preoccupation in mind, their intention was to get the conversation over and done with quickly.

Following the coaching session, armed with a new understanding and perspective on the situation, the manager’s perception of the staff member transformed. Their approach to the conversation also changed. They removed themselves as an obstacle and saw the human soul behind the label. This shift created an atmosphere charged with a new kind of energy, one that not only facilitated genuine human connection but also transcended what initially appeared to be a significant issue.

Consequently, when the staff member entered the room, they did so with an open mind and open arms. Without any prompting, they addressed all the issues troubling them and acknowledged how these problems had affected their attitude and performance. They demonstrated a willingness to receive feedback, and together, they agreed to provide support and assistance to help the staff member overcome these challenges.

The key, to achieving this, is to get out of our own way and step beyond our preconceptions and ego. It removes invisible barriers and connects on a deeply human level.

Next time you feel the urge to rely on your title or get caught up in labels, take a gentle pause. Reflect on the vantage point of a wise leader. Remember that your real power isn’t in the letters printed on your business card; it’s in your ability to connect, inspire, and lead people toward a shared vision.

Mark’s revelation reminds us that in the grand game of leadership, the booby prize is the title. The real prize? The genuine human connections you forge along the way. Those connections can move mountains, and they’re worth more than any title ever will be.

Observational Exercise: Take a moment to reflect on your interactions with your team. Are you connecting on a human level, or are you relying solely on your title or authority?

Reflective Question: What deeper understanding can you gain from your team members by setting aside your title and truly listening to their experiences and perspectives?

So, embrace the wisdom of leading human to human. Titles are fleeting, but the impact of genuine leadership is timeless.

With that in mind, always explore and find out for yourself what’s being shared with you!

Contact me at mi**@mi***********.com to further explore how you can expand your leadership impact or simply to reach out to start a conversation.

Learn heaps and keep shining your light on the world! 😊

To your best




About Mike Schwarzer

Mike is a Transformation Professional and Learning Leader who is passionate about helping leaders and organisations to solve the problems that they have not been able to solve elsewhere.

He works with the underlying mental, behavioural and deeper innate dynamics that drive people’s and organisations’ thinking and actions. He creates and holds the space where they learn how to tap into their inner and outer capabilities in transformational ways and lift their perceptual abilities to see their world, its problems and emerging solutions with fresh eyes.

At the organisational level, Mike’s approach challenges the status quo and hierarchical thinking. He takes you into the world of living ‘open & adaptive’ systems and their self-organising nature. From there you will be able to create a workplace culture that naturally draws from the collective wisdom of all its people and that is highly adaptable to the changing winds of a complex world.

For more information about Mike visit www.mikeschwarzer.com.