Imagine a University building a specific facility focus on leadership studies only... Consider, just for a moment, what that means.
That means a lot to me. I come from meager resources anyway. . . Everything I learned about leadership was through the Club Managers Association of America (CMAA) education programming or on the job in my 35 years of restaurants, hotels and clubs.
But to the new and ever changing business world, leadership has always been sort of that R.O.T.C. sort of study program - sequestered to business studies and higher level classes in colleges across the country - in universities of notoriety. How can it become more mainstream? Certainly in my business, hospitality management, the study of leadership and leading people has always taken a backseat to more learned skills from accounting to human resource law. All very important but missing the factor that will make grads from the hospitality schools across the country more valuable at the head of any company: A true, trained leader.
I was recently invited to Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, to speak in some classes and recruit for interns. We have a very strong intern program at the Club I manage and I acquired a very talented intern from K-State last year: Bailey Miller. Bailey is the President of the student chapter of CMAA, one of 40 Student chapters across the country. Bailey had a good experience during her internship the past summer at my club and knew I was eager to recruit from her school direct. There is a group of students call the “Blue Key” who had organized a conference on leadership for local high school students the same time I was coming to visit. One of my very good friends, Three Carpenter, CCM, was invited to talk as their key-note speaker (see vid snipet attached below). Bailey had asked Three and I to speak in a couple hospitality classes as well as meet with her student chapter of CMAA. During our visit to K-State, Bailey gave us a campus tour. To say the campus was fabulous would be an understatement. The facilities are state of the art with the feel of Ivy league; the school spirit is awesome - their logo alone is one of my favorite I’ve ever seen: the Power Cat! - But the feeling of camaraderie and school pride is incredible. There is something very comfortable about the demeanor of mid-west people. Now I’m not just saying that because I’m from the mid-west but I have spent time on both coasts from New York and Florida to LA and Seattle. People, and students, are very real and genuine. Even the educators seem to care a little more. There was one who I witnessed while waiting for a class to start, that was cajoling a student for an assignment. In a very nice way, really displaying a sense of fatherly assertion rather than just another teacher. During the tour we came upon the building you see pictured above. It is their new Center on Leadership. Bailey said it was slated to open in the spring. Three and I just kind of looked at each other with our jaws on our chests: a center, state of the art equipped, based solely on the subject of leadership. . . Now, as I said, I’m from a humble background and Three is a guy from Iowa that started as DJ and then stumbled into the club business, much like I did as a teen ager in restaurants. Our impressions of this bright, new, shiny building with such a focus on leadership held us in awe.
One thing I know about Three Carpenter, is that he, much like I, is fascinated by leadership. He studies it, he speaks it, he lives and breathes it. He and I were musing over breakfast one morning, exclaiming how we would prefer our titles to be, instead of “General Manager” we’d prefer “General Leader”. Managing can be done by each employee - managing their own duties, tasks and performance. We look at employee leadership as something more advanced than when we first came into the hospitality business. As I said, Three came to this business through entertainment, golf and clubs. I came in through restaurants and hotels before clubs. We are both in our 40’s so back in our first days in the business, leadership was represented by the guy who kicked you in the pants and showed you where the grease trap was for cleaning, or where the ball washer was to clean range balls. Most club managers these days are not hospitality students. Sure, many came from four year business degree backgrounds but not too many from full-fledged hospitality, four year, school and industry supported programs. Most of us performing as club managers now are well trained, up through the ranks sort of stumbled upon leaders. . . So, yet again, Three and I thought: What will the leadership at the Club of the Future be like? Who will be leading these clubs 5, 10 or twenty years from now? The answer is obvious and impending: The students out of the top hospitality schools like K-State, University of Wisconsin Stout, Cornell, Michigan State and a multitude of others have finally found our club industry. They are headed our way and they are going to be true and trained leaders. Pretty cool, I think!
So how appropriate for Three and I to be so excited to see this new Leadership Center at K-State. There are many ways for you to find and study leadership. The hospitality business, and clubs in specific, are a good way to do that. There is hope yet for our funny little industry of club management. The leaders of the future will be so well equipped, I think we’ll be leaving it in good hands. :-)
Christopher A. Boettcher, CCM, CCE
General Manager ~ Milwaukee Country Club