Antonia Hock of The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center: How To Take Your Company From Good To Great

An Interview With Jerome Knyszewski

Jerome Knyszewski
Jul 28 · 19 min read

Be An Authentic Leader: Don’t compromise your authenticity. It’s the best superpower you have as a leader. Be visible, be tuned into your employees’ needs, and be committed to bringing your entire self to the work. I see so many leaders who are focused on what they “think” they should be, not who they are. It’s impossible to inspire, build, and grow a great business if you are constantly trying to blend who you really are with a persona you have constructed for work.

  1. Be Highly Differentiated or Perish: I see a lot of leaders who think that their business is special simply because they run them. In any business, you must be ruthlessly honest about your position in the market. Are you offering a highly differentiated, important offering that your clients cannot get from any other company? Can you tell that story from a client point-of-view in less than 90 seconds? Be honest and think hard about the answers to those questions. If they aren’t clear, crisp, and specific, you will struggle to survive.
  2. You & All Employees are the Brand so Live it: Every interaction with a client or customer, any public image, and any interaction big or small demonstrates your brand value and image. You cannot have a bad day where you don’t show up on-point for what your brand stands for or what you deliver in the market. I see many companies who believe if they deliver in front of customers that will be “enough”, but the culture of your company, the way everyone conducts themselves day-in-and-day-out at every interaction must be “on-brand”. You are your brand. Nothing will be stronger in the market than your constant conduct.
  3. Be An Authentic Leader: Don’t compromise your authenticity. It’s the best superpower you have as a leader. Be visible, be tuned into your employees’ needs, and be committed to bringing your entire self to the work. I see so many leaders who are focused on what they “think” they should be, not who they are. It’s impossible to inspire, build, and grow a great business if you are constantly trying to blend who you really are with a persona you have constructed for work.
  4. Operational Excellence is Mandatory: All businesses thrive on operational efficiency and optimization. The systems, processes, and infrastructure needed to run an effective business may not be glamorous, but they are a mandate to run a profitable business of any kind. Invest in process optimization and grow an operations team that is passionate about wringing any inefficiency out of the system.
  1. Have a Bias for Action: When market conditions change, do your research quickly and act. Be swift, definitive, and pivot fully if needed. Too often, companies take too long to act, and it costs jobs, market position, or worse. When you see the sky darkening, get everyone focused on what needs to happen next, and act.
  2. Look for Adjacent Opportunities: This is an underutilized strategy in my opinion. Often, there may be a business opportunity that is very near to something your company already makes or provides. If offered to your install base, it would be a quick source of additional income. Regularly, I see business leaders believe that a radical move into a new space is best, but those moves can be risky in turbulent times. Instead, something much closer to home is often a faster, easier lift to success.
  1. Be Specific and Disciplined about your Identity: Consumers want to connect with brands that have a specific identity that speaks directly to them. As a brand you cannot be generic, appeal to all, and be successful. Take a stand and have a focused, disciplined identity that appeals to the specific demographics you target. Peloton has done an exceptional job of focusing on consumers that are passionate about fitness, but crave a connected, yet private, community experience. They have built a platform that supports and engages this specific demographic, and their reward has been stronger growth and an enviable social media following of passionate consumers.
  2. Be Honest and Authentic in your Connections: Research shows that the coveted Millennial and Gen Z consumers want to engage with brands that have a definitive point of view on social, business, and environmental topics. As a brand, you cannot be non-committal or neutral on important generational issues. Part of being authentic is to find a way to consistently express your brand values, so you connect with your desired consumer. Athletica is a great example of a brand that is leading with a core social statement. When you log into Athletica’s app, the first screen you see is that they are a “Proud Certified B Corp”. You do not see products, offers, or other advertising. Instead, you see this strong statement about their commitment to a social movement that balances their supply chain, employees, and environmental impact with their profit. This is another way to connect with the heart of your consumers and drive that authentic brand connection.
  1. Personalize your content & anticipate desires: The brands with a devoted following know that creating personal connections with consumers drives loyal behavior. The next step beyond this personalization is the anticipation of needs that demonstrates genuine care and connection. Brands that can show this degree of “commitment” and “relationship” create a 1-to-1 rapport that drives organic followership's. Nike has invested heavily in technology that creates this type of connection to the individual consumer. As a NikeID member, when you approach the Nike Melrose store in California, the geo-fencing picks up your presence and alerts the sales associates to pull items that match your preferences in your size to present to you in store. This behavior not only personalizes your experience, but it also anticipates your tastes, and acknowledges that, as a loyal consumer, you matter to the brand.

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