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Cultivating Leadership

Management Exec Murray Offers Perspective From Broad Hospitality Experience

Thursday, April 04, 2019
Dennis Nessler
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Many who follow the lodging industry closely have bemoaned the lack of true leadership in recent years at the corporate level. But leadership at the property level is often seen as lacking as well and Jeremy Murray--a 20-plus-year hotel veteran and a regional director with midwest management firm WHG Companies--recently shared some of his thoughts on the subject.

Giving a presentation entitled “Cultivating Leadership” at Cobblestone Hotels’ recent annual conference in Denver, Murray recounted some of his experience both in the corporate ranks and having worked his way up at the property level some 22 years ago. His first hotel experience included everything from front desk positions to housekeeping and maintenance roles culminating in him being named general manager.

But Murray pointed out the promotion alone didn’t necessarily make him a leader.
“Leadership is not about your position or seniority with an organization; it just isn’t. We all think it is right? We say ‘I have the most seniority in the organization they all come to me so I’m the leader,’ but that’s not necessarily true. We talk about titles. As GM you’re the captain of the ship. We give you this title, this position, this authority so by virtue of that you’re the leader, but does it really make you the leader? Not always,” he noted.

Murray reinforced the point by referencing his own experience as he embarked on his journey. “I went up with a suitcase full of knowledge. I knew how to work a desk and do reports; I understood all the inner workings of the hotel business but there was an element missing. I couldn’t figure out what it was...I started studying leadership and I started realizing it was something completely different than being a general manager. Yes the GM and leadership are synonymous with each other but it’s not the same,” he recalled.

Murray did, however, underscore the importance of an influential hotel mentor who helped get him to the next level. “I had a general manager that was really focused on developing me; letting me learning what I needed to learn; letting me do what I needed to do; and showing what I need to do to grow. He really understood that my goal was to be a GM and prepared me for that,” he said.

According to Murray, when he turned to the dictionary to help figure out what leadership it wasn’t much help. Instead, he continued to engage with others on the subject and work to hone his own skills.
“Leadership is super hard to define and really hard to explain. If anybody ever asks they always want to start with what leadership is not. Once I learned what leadership wasn’t I could really focus on what I needed to do to truly be a leader,” he commented.

Those efforts would ultimately lead Murray to come up with his own definition. “Leadership is not a title it’s a behavior and the most powerful leadership tool that you have is your own personal example,” he said.

Murray further added, “leadership is action. It’s a verb, not a noun. It’s something that we do; something that we are; something that we encompass; something that we believe in; and something we do with our teams. It’s chasing a purpose not a title,” he insisted.

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Dennis Nessler    Dennis Nessler
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