It can get lonely at the top

One day, I was sitting alone at one of my restaurants in the hotel and having lunch. It was a beautiful day: We had a very solid hotel occupancy of 85%, the sun was shining, the ocean was calm, a fresh breeze was swirling through the entire garden and pool area and I had not a single complaint from any guest.

So, I was having lunch and thinking about the next beverage promotion that we should introduce in 1 or 2 weeks when one of our regular guests approached me. He was actually just passing by, picking up a cocktail from the bar, but when he saw me, sitting there alone diving deep in thoughts, he came closer and said: “It can get lonely at the top, isn’t it?”.

It can indeed.

Over the last 10 years, I have pushed myself to get to the point that I can be in charge of a hotel and take on the responsibility that comes with it. As a rank & file employee, I was always full of ideas and dreams of how I would like to put my stamp on the business I work at. I was learning, studying and gathering ideas and doing online-courses how to improve all kinds of procedures. How we could manage guest expectations better, how to improve our workplace, which IT solutions offer the best benefits, what facilities can help us and our guest to have the best possible stay. Design & architecture related topics, food styling and decorations, … the list is endless.

But what I never really did, was to spend a thought on, what it actually means to be at a top position.

It turns out, that I really underestimated the pressure that comes with it. While I got the chance to put many of my ideas and thoughts into practice, the job of a hotel General Manager is actually frighteningly time-consuming. And the largest chunk of my time, I am actually not spending with guests or hotel improvements. The biggest part of it is the team management.

It is truly fascinating, how tables turn once you move up into management. Suddenly you are not the one questioning a single guy at the top, but instead, you have 150 other persons questioning you. Observing you. Interpreting every word, eye-blink and every move of you. It took me a while to learn how to handle the pressure and also, I had to change my behavior. Truth is, it doesn’t matter who you are, if you want to take responsibility for and lead others, you have to learn how to serve them, while at the same time pushing your agenda. People will only believe in you if you believe also in them.

And this brings me to the recent break-down of Teslas CEO Elon Musk. 

I am certainly in no position to judge or even to start to begin to imagine, what kind of huge pressure he took on when taking care simultaneously of Tesla, SpaceX, The Boring Company and his AI venture. I am not a billionaire (not even close) and I don’t have 25.000 employees and billions of dollars from investors to be pressured by. But I think I am in a position to give a single advice:

Elon, get some sleep. Do some exercise. Take a vacation.
And learn to delegate.

Being alone at the top is a choice, not a given. The way we treat our colleagues, business partners and investors is what defines us and our business. The problems will never get less. The days will never get longer. Micro-management is not a healthy habit for any company and never works out well in the long run for anybody involved.

If you trust your team and find a supportive left and right hand to help you through thick and thin, then you can have a sit at a nice restaurant, enjoy the breeze, watch your guest/clients enjoying their time with your product and/or service. And when someone approaches you and says that it’s lonely at the top, you can smile back and respond:

“It’s a beautiful day”.

DISCLOSURE: I have no shares of Tesla.

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